Ireland must introduce laws that prosecute people who pay for sex or face becoming a haven for pimps and traffickers, the Immigrant Council of Ireland has warned.
Northern Ireland is to introduce new legislation on June 1 that will make it illegal to pay for prostitutes, the only part of Britain or Ireland with such a law.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald published the heads of a bill last November that would outlaw the purchase of sexual services and the council says she should go ahead and implement it as soon as possible.
Brian Killoran of the Immigrant Council said: “The fact that Northern Ireland is now moving ahead is fuelling fears that neighbouring jurisdictions, including border countries, will be seen as a haven by pimps and traffickers.
“It is important that as a first step, we see similar laws introduced by the Oireachtas and a return to an all-island approach to trafficking, with the hope that Europe-wide measures will follow to shut down a crime which crosses borders and continents.”
The council and two other Irish groups, Doras Luimní and Ruhama, are joining 100 agencies from EU countries at a meeting with the European Commission to discuss how to stop human trafficking and child abuse.
The council said they had their busiest year to date with 19 victims of sex trafficking being supported.
“What is equally alarming is the numbers of women confirming to us that they were forced into prostitution in Ireland at an early age, often no more than 14 years old”, said Nusha Yonkova, anti-trafficking manager with the Immigrant Council.
Ms Fitzgerald told the Dáil recently her primary concern with the forthcoming legislation was to vindicate the human rights of trafficked women, 80% of whom are sexually exploited.
A Romanian trafficker network into France was broken up in an operationaided by Europol and Eurojust this week where the gang made €4m from forcing Romanian women into prostitution, and invested it in Romanian real estate.
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