Published date: 
7 Jul 2010

Stop Sex TraffickingAlliance LogoBodyshopECPAT logo


Ireland is among the poorest performing EU states in combating sex trafficking of children and young people, according to an exclusive ECPAT International report, launched today by the Children’s Rights Alliance and The Body Shop, as part of its three-year global campaign entitled: Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People.  Though among the 53% of countries deemed to be showing ‘some progress’ in putting an end to the third largest, and fastest growing, criminal industry in the world, Ireland is at the bottom of the category, with only Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal behind them.  1.2 million children are trafficked globally on an annual basis.  In Ireland, the HSE has indicated that 27 children had gone missing between January and May of 2009, of whom only two have been accounted for.  It is feared that many of these vulnerable, missing children have been trafficked.

In response, The Body Shop and the Children’s Rights Alliance is building on the support shown by the Irish people, who have raised over €30,000 for campaigns and prevention projects against child trafficking in Ireland, by launching a global petition at Dublin’s Grafton Street branch of The Body Shop today (8 July) at 11am.  The campaign is calling on every concerned person in Ireland to show their solidarity, by tracing their hand as part of a petition in their local Body Shop store.  Celebrity supporters across the world include: Twilight’s Robert Pattinson, Sienna Miller, Sir Ben Kingsley, Yoko Ono, Joanna Lumley, Mark Ronson, Joely Richardson, Denise van Outen, and Pixie Lott. 

The people of Ireland are being asked to support the petition, which calls on Government to:

  • Identify child victims and enforce laws to prosecute child traffickers;
  • Provide child victims with the support they need to escape their traffickers and rebuild their lives;
  • Implement the Irish Government’s National Action Plan to Prevent and Combat Trafficking in Human Beings 2009-2012; and
  • Ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.

Ireland is considered, primarily, as a destination for child trafficking, but also as a transit point for children trafficked to the UK – increasingly, the border crossing between Northern Ireland and the Republic is being used, as well as the Ireland‐Wales ferry crossings.  According to a senior Garda source, human trafficking gangs are increasingly organising the trafficking of separated children who are taken into the care of the HSE on arrival in Ireland.  The placement of separated children in privately run hostels which lack the necessary adult supervision and care has been directly linked to instances of children going missing. There is evidence that some of these children have ended up in the sex trade in Ireland and abroad.

Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance, a coalition of over 90 NGOs working for the rights and needs of children, says: “Last year, we helped launch The Body Shop’s Soft Hands Kind Heart handcream and called on the Irish public to join hands with us – and they did, raising over €30,000 to help combat trafficking of children, here in Ireland.  That is an amazing achievement and the Irish public are clearly leading the way here, in Ireland.  Though the Government has made some progress, we should NOT be languishing among the bottom EU states on this issue.  Why are we not up there with the UK in protecting our children from this vile practice?  The reason we’re not up there, is because the State is not identifying the crime, we don’t have clear systems in place to help a child who has been trafficked or who is at risk of being trafficked.  Ireland, unfortunately, only has an aspirational National Plan of Action in place, but without the drive to implement it and make it a living, breathing document that repairs lives.

She continues: “I have heard heart-breaking stories, including stories of children being trafficked in Sligo, Kilkenny, Cork, Dublin.  This is an issue at the heart of our communities, albeit underground.   There is a reluctance to acknowledge that this very modern slave trade is happening here in Ireland.  We can, and must, stop child trafficking.  We now are calling on the public to rise to the challenge again and trace their hand in support of our petition.  The Government must do more to guarantee children and young people their right to protection from traffickers who profit from the misery they inflict on children.”

Chris Davis, Head of Global Campaigns at The Body Shop, (right-hand man to the late Dame Anita Roddick, who inspired the campaign) will join Jillian van Turnhout, and says of the global campaign: “This global petition is a time for us all to get active.  This is a campaign that is inspired by Anita’s passion for justice.  Her work lives on, as we continue her fight with this latest campaign, Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People, in partnership with ECPAT International and the Alliance.  The Irish public has done amazingly well with the amount of money raised to date, from the sale of the handcream and I absolutely believe that they will continue to support the campaign and take time out of their busy lives to trace their hand in support of this global petition for children who are sex trafficked.  The petition will go to the Taoiseach in 2011, and ultimately to the UN Headquarters in New York, and I’m sure that we will succeed in inspiring long-term change.”

Nusha Yonkova of the Immigrant Council of Ireland (ICI), who works directly with victims of trafficking in Ireland, welcomes the campaign and congratulates the initiators ECPAT and The Body Shop as well as their Irish partners, the Children’s Rights Alliance: “As an independent law centre, the ICI represents very young clients, who have experienced human trafficking while minors in Ireland.  While the ICI welcomes the positive changes in the latest version of the Immigration Residence and Protection Bill published last week, namely the introduction of designated residence permits for child victims, which are of flexible length and are independent from cooperation with the authorities, we remain concerned that young people remain unidentified as suspected victims of trafficking and therefore cannot avail of the increased protection put in place for them.”


**Contact Carys Thomas for copies of the Report on Ireland’s Child Sex Trafficking Record and/or Executive Summary**

Carys Thomas, Communications Director
Children’s Rights Alliance
Tel: (01) 662 9400 / 087 7702845

Notes to Editor:

Full programme:
11.00am:  Chris Davis, Head of Global Campaigns, The Body Shop – International Perspective
11.10am:  Jillian van Turnhout, Chief Executive, Alliance – Irish Perspective
11.20am:  Lisa Harding, Fair City Actress – Extracts From Real Life
11.25am:  Photo-call  ** Derek Speirs**
12.00pm:  Close

  • The Children’s Rights Alliance will join The Body Shop at the launch of the report and global petition at 11am in the Grafton St branch, Dublin, on Thursday 8 July.
  • The most common form of child trafficking is for sexual exploitation (accounting for 79% of all trafficking); children are also trafficked and exploited for labour, forced participation in criminal activities, forced marriage, illegal adoption and domestic servitude. 
  • At the top of the Report’s ratings are the UK, Denmark and Romania, having shown to have made ‘notable efforts’, while Cyprus, Greece, Sweden and the Czech Republic all categorized as having ‘limited measures’ in place. 
    The partnership between The Body Shop and the Alliance was initially launched in August 2009 with the launch of a specially developed “Soft Hands Kind Heart Hand Cream”, which has since been on sale in 12 stores throughout Ireland for €5.95 (£3.45 donated directly to campaigns and prevention projects against child trafficking in Ireland). Approximately €30,000 has been raised to date to combat trafficking, here in Ireland.
  • Child trafficking is the third largest international crime (following illegal drugs and arms trafficking).
  • The Children’s Rights Alliance is a member of the Action for Separated Children in Ireland coalition, together with Barnardos, IAYPIC, the Irish Refugee Council and ISPCC.
  • The Body Shop International plc is the original ethical cosmetics company, now operating more than 2,500 stores in over 60 markets worldwide.
  • HSE Figure comes from: Ombudsman for Children (2009) Separated children living in Ireland: A report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office, page 42; Since 2000, over 500 children have gone missing from State care, of whom a shocking 90% remain missing.  It is likely that many have been trafficked. 
  • ECPAT is a global network of organisations and individuals working together to eliminate child prostitution, child pornography and the trafficking of children for sexual purposes


Example Child Trafficking Case-Studies in Ireland (More in Progress Report)

  •  A 10-year-old Romanian Roma girl was taken into HSE care by the Gardaí in Dublin in emergency circumstances. She went missing from her care placement less than a week later.  The 10-year-old girl was suspected to have been subject to an arranged marriage to an 18-year-old.  The teenager concerned was also missing.
  • A 15-year-old Somalian girl was rescued from a brothel after being trafficked to Ireland. Hostel staff requested an extra childcare worker for the girl, but this request was refused and the girl went missing a day later.
  • A 16-year-old Burundi girl came to the attention of Gardaí in Co. Louth after she was held captive in a house and abused.  She had been taken from her home village in Africa at age 12 and inducted into sex slavery in different countries before being trafficked to Ireland.  The girl recalled being trafficked through at least two airports before arriving in Ireland.
  • A 16-year-old Romanian girl was trafficked to Ireland and controlled by a group of traffickers who locked her in a flat, together with other girls.  She was forced to prostitute herself from 12pm to 4am. After the police raid, she was repatriated to Romania. She has since been supported to return to education, successfully passing her exams.
  • A 17-year-old Sudanese girl was introduced to a Nigerian man by a family ‘friend’ who promised her an education in Europe.  The man brought her to Dublin via Manchester and Belfast.  While travelling, she was told to assume a Nigerian identity.  She was given clothes and boots and a bag of condoms and was told to do anything that clients wanted.  She was forced to have sex with a minimum of four men per night.
  • An underage female from Nigeria was found by Gardaí in a brothel in Kilkenny and was identified as a suspected victim of trafficking. Following her arrest in a brothel in Kilkenny the girl was taken into HSE care.  She was charged at Carlow District Court with failing to produce identity papers. Her case was originally heard in early July 2008 and she was remanded on continuing bail to appear again on 9 September 2008. She failed to show up for her court appearance in September and was reported missing. Her whereabouts are unknown.
  • A 17-year-old Chinese girl, arrived in Cork Airport from Barcelona.  The Garda identified that the girl did not have correct identification papers. The HSE placed the girl in an emergency care placement in a small town in Co. Cork , over the weekend.  Approximately 24 to 48 hours later, the HSE moved the girl to a new care placement.  It is reported that the girl was highly distressed at this move. Four days after her arrival in Ireland, the girl disappeared during the day when walking down the street in the town. Apparently, the girl has since been found.

Click here for more information on the Body Shop, ECPAT and Children's Rights Alliance Stop Sex Trafficking of Children and Young People campaign. 


Children's Rights Alliance