Human trafficking: ‘I lived in fear . . . I was a broken person’

The Irish Times | A mother of two from Cameroon taken into prostitution in Ireland

Laura* arrived in Ireland in 2010. Today, she still struggles to talk about the years before she came and those that came afterwards when she was left with no choice but to work as a prostitute to survive.

The mother of two had already spent five years working in prostitution in Holland before being trafficked to Ireland. In Holland, she had hoped to build a life but her asylum claim was rejected.

“That part of my life, I block it out. I don’t discuss it at all and told no friends or family about what I was doing. I was trafficked for 10 years, it was the worst time of my life.

“I lived in fear and and darkness, not just for myself but for my kids back home. I was a broken person,” said Laura, who now mentors for women who have left prostitution through a programme run by the Immigrant Council of Ireland.

She left Cameroon in the early 2000s after her partner died in a car accident. A trained nurse, Laura says her partner’s brother promised he could get her work in Europe so she could continue to support her children.

However, once she had arrived in Holland, she discovered she was expected to sell her body for money. This she did while she waited for a decision by the Dutch authorities on her asylum application.

I was scared if I tried to leave he would attack my family back home

When it was rejected, her trafficker moved her to Ireland.

“He promised I would not be deported because I was undocumented, so no one would know I was here.”

She met most of her “clients” in the house where she lived, though she was also brought to rural areas to meet men. Worries about her children and mother’s safety in Cameroon stopped her from alerting the authorities.

“I didn’t want to do anything that might annoy the smuggler. I was scared if I tried to leave he would attack my family back home,” she told The Irish Times, saying she was speaking now to encourage others.

Three years later, she met and fell in love with an Irish man. Three years further on, they decided to marry after they were advised that they might be able to marry in Northern Ireland, even though she was undocumented.

However, on the day of the wedding, Laura was arrested. While in detention in Newry, she called her trafficker for advice. When he said he would move her to Switzerland, Laura hung up the phone.

She was released after five days. Once back in Dublin, and had reunited with her partner, she went to the Rape Crisis Centre, who referred her onto Ruhama – an NGO working with women affected by prostitution.

Soon, she was brought to the Balseskin direct provision centre in Finglas. When gardaí came to take a statement, Laura was immediately uncomfortable, fearing deportation, though Ruhama reassured her.

I would tell other women to trust the people here who are trying to help them

She spent six months in Balseskin, and never felt safe once, fearing that her trafficker would find her. Later, she was given a temporary residence permit and a flat in Clondalkin.

Back home, her children are now at university, while she has completed a course in nursing at Ballyfermot College and is now studying at Trinity College while working as a healthcare assistant.

“When I was in Holland I was always scared of the police; they don’t have empathy. I see that empathy with the Irish police. I would tell other women to trust the people here who are trying to help them. Even the police.”

reland’s system of identifying trafficking victims must be improved, says Dr Nusha Yonkova, gender and anti-trafficking expert with the Immigrant Council. Housing such victims in direct provision centres is “grossly inappropriate” and impedes people’s recovery, she argues, saying they should be taken care of separately.

*Pseudonym used to protect speaker’s identity

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  1. Women by their nature, like prostitution. It starts with one boyfriend to another
    and it is very competitive in them. So commonplace in Cameroon in particular.
    Tell them this story and others, so they don`t migrate for prostitution to Gabon,
    Malabo, Kuwait, Angola etc etc etc, you will be insulted and called names all
    day long. These stories are there in Cameroon, but the more you hear or see posters
    claiming of good jobs and big pay in those places, man, there is no stopping them.
    Even Moms, encourage it. NGOs etc, should go to the grassroots, to try to kill
    this disease, rather than encouraging it by helping them look for asylum or jobs.
    Grassroot, is the place to start, because many of them, have a very rustic beginnings.

    • Big man that is a general statement you are making which of course it is not true. Secondly, your understanding of what prostitution is, is miscued. Prostitution means selling your body for money and has nothing to do with women leaving one boyfriend to another. So please get your facts right.

    • @Dull Joshua u see why ur coconut Ndian head is so empty that Biya will exploit all your oil without no objection yet you run 1000km away to blame the Graffi man for Biya exploiting your oil? u see why Nwalipenja was so dull to stand up to Ahidjo while the fearless Juah confronted him? Man you are a disgrace to Ambazoina.

      Now listen, prostitution thrives because men like u drive up the demand for it. U cannot just target the grassroot without converting u into a eunuch through castration. Do u know what it means to be under duress at all? No wonder the attack on Ayuk Tabe’s integrity. The way u write u are irresponsible, don’t have a family, have no connection to ur mother, have no sister or a daughter. shut your big smelly mouth that stays open for ever. What a dull grumpy old fool.

      • Simpletons, you have failed to see the point. If women just stand up
        and say enough is enough, the word, will be taken out of the dictionary.
        When even exuniversity girls run to Kuwait, malabo etc, don`t they get
        these stories from friends. But there is no stoping them. It is ingrained
        in them and they like it. Why do they move from one boy friend, to
        another? They have demands, that should be met. When you grow up,
        you will certainly, come to know this and agree with me at that time.
        Just because boyfriend a, can not keep giving money for shoes, hair do
        etc, that just prompts a move. Even marriages with children involved,
        are examples. You will accept this, some day.

        • See you and your foolishness @Joshua. I am talking of Mother, Wife, Daughter and Sisters and here you are taking of girlfriend and the rest made up gossips from I ya say. Tell me who is the big boy/mature one in our clives conversation before talking about when I will grow. Typical African ancien Parigo with complete detachment from reality. Do you think if these girls had the opportunity you are wasting in America they will rush to the gulf countries? Wicked old man. Keep attacking prisoners integrity who cannot defend themselves and thinking your old head is smart. One day you’ll realize rushing to post the 1st comment all the time is erratic behaviour and a symptom of psychotic disorder and not smartness.

    • Crying for my country

      @Joshua, you are a very big fool. Period

  2. Crying for my country

    @Joshua, you are a very big fool. Period.

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