Ruhama engaged in casework with 140 women in 2010 of whom 80 had been trafficked into Ireland or sought refuge here after being smuggled to another country in Europe.
This meant the agency dealt with more women from Nigeria (51) than any other country, including Ireland (31). Ruhama said 96% of the Nigerian women were the victims of trafficking and a quarter interacted with Ruhama for the first time in 2010.
The annual report for Ruhama showed 204 women had dealt with the service either as part of ongoing case work or through on-street outreach last year.
There were 26 new cases of human trafficking which came to the attention of Ruhama in 2010. Of those 14 were brought into Ireland directly and the remainder were shipped elsewhere in Europe before looking for sanctuary here.
The women who had been forced to work in the sex trade came from 11 countries, five of which are in eastern Europe. However, Africa accounted for the bulk of all women who had been trafficked, with Nigeria by far the most common country of origin.
Ruhama chief executive Sarah Benson said the reality of the sex industry in Ireland has been changing and it defied the common perception of both the victims and the buyers. “Most sex buyers are married or in relationships and will have a higher than average number of sex partners compared to non-sex buyers.
“The real profile of sex buyers also demonstrates that they do not fit the stereotypical profile of the lonely man who can’t otherwise have sex without buying it,” she said.
Ruhama said the prevalence of mobile phone technology has reduced the need for prostitution to take place in larger urban centres. It said now even the smallest rural communities are seeing women shipped in to meet customers who deal with central booking agencies.
“It is happening in small communities in apartments, over shops and pubs – hidden in plain sight. Women are moved quickly and sometimes frequently and the criminals involved remain at arm’s length hiding behind a computer screen.”
While the case work carried out by Ruhama increased by just 4% compared with 2009, the total showed an aggregate increase of 28% on the 101 sex workers who were helped in 2008.
Last year 20 women, from both Ireland and overseas, availed of Ruhama’s resettlement service to advise and support them.