Home » Uncategorized » Excerpts from Open Secrets: An Irish Perspective on Trafficking and Witchcraft

Excerpts from Open Secrets: An Irish Perspective on Trafficking and Witchcraft

Ireland, Holland and Turkey (the successors to the Ottomans) form a nexus whose relationship to one another on the issue of human trafficking has been an unhappy affair. One can point to the sack of Baltimore for its origins. But history has a way of repeating itself, sometimes partially and sometimes entirely so.

Human trafficking is a problem in Holland, where prostitution has been legalised for over a decade. Dutch Public Prosecutor Inge Schepers describes how the lifting of the ban on brothels was supposed to normalise prostitution and to improve practices within Holland’s sex industry but the very thing society sought to improve was made manifestly worse through its actions. 1 The 2010 report of the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking Human Beings concedes:

There has always been a clear relationship between human trafficking and prostitution in the Netherlands. Human trafficking has been associated with prostitution ever since it was included in Dutch criminal law. 2

In the ten years 2000 to 2009, Dutch authorities recorded 5,084 victims of human trafficking. 3 Of these 5,084 victims, it can be established that, between the years 2006 to 2009 inclusive, 582 victims were encountered who were categorised as “underage” when located. 4 As is the case with all criminal activities, the figures reflect only part of the reality. The true figures necessarily must be higher than those detailed here.

In the 2005 report of the Dutch National Rapporteur, it was revealed that an Irish citizen had likely been trafficked in Holland just two years prior. 5 This case may be the first recorded instance of an Irish citizen being trafficked into forced commercial sexual exploitation in contemporary times. Any uncertainty surrounding the allegation has evaporated in the intervening years and subsequent reports by the Dutch National Rapporteur have recorded the event as an instance of human trafficking. 6

History repeated itself only a short time later. This time, all parties to the nexus of Ireland, Holland and Turkey once again were involved when Holland’s most high-profile and notorious case of human trafficking emerged. In what would become known as the ‘Sneep case’, over 120 women, mostly women from Eastern Europe and Holland, were trafficked for forced commercial sexual exploitation by a Turkish gang. 7 There are several remarkable aspects to the case. Of particular interest to Ireland is the fact that an Irish citizen was one of those trafficked into forced commercial sexual exploitation. 8

The original complaint that led to the Sneep case was made in 1998 and investigations were conducted in 2000 and again in 2003. 9 A further complaint was made thereafter but it was only in 2007, almost 10 years after the original complaint was made, that the first arrests were made. 10 As a single case, the scale of the crime was also staggering. To put the figure of 120 victims into some context, it represents almost 150% of the total number of victims encountered in the Republic of Ireland during 2010. 11

Some may consider the most remarkable aspect of the Sneep case to be the fact that the victims were openly prostituted via licensed window prostitution. 12 Indeed, the Dutch National Rapporteur on Human Beings recognises that situations “of human trafficking are not always easy to recognise”. 13 It may seem extraordinary that so many adults could be so effectively enslaved in such a public space over a long period of time and be forced to engage in commercial sex work. Yet, there is no reason to suppose that human trafficking in Holland’s public places was a unique event and that other cases have been confined to more secluded spaces. “Amsterdam has registered the largest number of human trafficking cases in the nine year period” 2000 to 2009, a figure of 197 victims in all. 14

If victims can be so publicly found in Holland, it compels the question of where else they might be found and how they might be identified. The answer lies with the starting point. The starting point in human trafficking always must lie with the role of violence, which is always much more than mere contempt for the victim or general opportunism on the part of the trafficker. This is not to say that these are not factors but rather that violence plays another role too, one much larger than may be appreciated initially. It plays a role capable of explaining how 120 victims of human trafficking can be left on public display for a decade in circumstances where they are sexually exploited several times daily.

One of the draft adverts discovered by the Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCA), which raided Carroll’s Welsh premises, read:

African Nandi, very petite tanned chocolate delight , petite slim size 8, 34C but leggy flexible kinky. 35

What the advert did not mention of course was that ‘African Nandi’ was trafficked, that she was engaging in prostitution under duress and punters availing of the services advertised consequently were engaging in an act of rape.

Frustratingly, “charges of trafficking against the couple [Thomas Carroll and Shamiela Clark] were not pursued after they agreed to plead guilty to charges of controlling prostitution and money laundering, in February 2010 ”. 36 Thomas Carroll is presently “serving a seven-year term for vice and money laundering offences”. 37 In March 2011, he was served with a confiscation order by Cardiff Crown Court. The order, made under the Proceeds of Crime Act, demanded € 2.2 million from him. 38

One of the aspects of cases such as Carroll’s is the unwillingness to remain within the confines of what would otherwise be termed prostitution. As already outlined, his empire of vice had surpassed any other in Ireland. His call centre was receiving hundreds of calls per day and, each time the phone rang, his operation was receiving at least € 160. The extent of his wealth was such that the British Crown believed him capable of paying a confiscation order in the millions. Yet this was not enough; much more profit could be extracted. By engaging in human trafficking , Carroll was able to increase the profitability of his operation. The real cost was the immeasurable suffering imposed upon his victims, which included rape. Some of those who suffered were children.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook describes Nigeria as comprising 155 million people. 13 A few figures stand out in revealing some of the hardships experienced in the country, hardships that amount to personal tragedy. With deaths numbering 91.54 per 1,000, the country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world. At birth, one can expect to live a total of 47.5 years. HIV/ AIDS infections total 3.3 million persons, placing the country third globally in this regard, with an estimated 220,000 people dying each year from the infection. 14 National crises are present too. For nearly 16 years, the country had been under continuous military rule. All of this changed in 1999 when democracy was restored but the country continues to be besieged by political, economic and social problems. 15

Even from a cursory glance of the realities on the ground in Nigeria, it is appreciable why the country features so prominently in reports on trafficking. If hardship results in vulnerability and vulnerability results in trafficking, then Nigeria ought to be a significant country for the supply of victims and so it is. In Holland, the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings reported that Nigerians were the only nationality to “appear in the top five in each of the 10 years reported”. 16 Fifty Nigerian women are known to have been subjected to human trafficking in Sweden in 2009. 17 In Ireland, figures published by Ruhama revealed that, of the 80 trafficked women supported by the charity in 2010, the majority, 61% , were Nigerian. 18 Of the 2,000 women trafficked into Italy each year, it is reported that 60% are from Nigeria. 19 Poignantly, even in Palermo, where one of the cornerstone international agreements aimed at combating human trafficking was agreed, “trafficked Nigerian women have become synonymous with prostitution”. 20

Some years after President Bush issued his 2003 Presidential Directive linking prostitution to trafficking and after Feingold offered his rebuttal, Jill Morris of the Not For Sale Campaign testified before the Nevada State Legislature:

Because of its legal brothel industry, Nevada is a haven for sex traffickers who force young girls and boys into prostitution. 4

Claims as to facts are always helpful but explanations for those facts invariably prove more valuable. The question arises then as to why prostitution would lead to human trafficking. There are doubtlessly many perspectives that could be adopted to analyse the argument. One possibility involves a fairly straightforward application of economics. The economic model asks merely that one presumes and accepts that all participants in the scenario in question are acting so as to maximise their financial reward. 5 One can dispense with moral judgements. Indeed in an economic approach, there is no room for morality. Decisions are made solely on the basis of a “calculation of costs and benefits”. 6 The costs may be monetary but they may also go beyond this and may include legal sanction if the actor is apprehended while acting illegally. The benefits most certainly will be monetary. In summary, this perspective presumes that people will act in their own best interest to maximise rewards while at the same time being conscious of the risks. The only factor that needs to be ascertained is the balance of risks and rewards. If the rewards are sufficiently high and the risks sufficiently low, then rationality alone ought to attest to what will happen and what is happening.

“Having accounted for the rewards, the focus now turns to the issue of risk. Two risks are readily conceived. The first is the risk of punishment by legal sanction. Technically, prostitution itself is not illegal in Ireland but specific activities associated with prostitution in Ireland are illegal. Under Ireland’s Criminal Law (Sexual Offences ) Act, 1993, activities such as soliciting, directing or controlling the activities of a prostitute and maintaining a brothel are just some of those associated with prostitution that are prohibited by the law. 10 The second risk is associated with market deterioration but there is little reason to suppose there is any significant investment by brothel operators so there is little risk of loss since little has been invested.

In this instance, the balance of risk and reward is a foregone conclusion. The extent of prostitution in Ireland is evident, totalling as many as 1,000 prostitutes. Persons organising prostitution in Ireland have weighed up the risk and the reward: infringement of Ireland’s Criminal Law (Sexual Offences ) Act, 1993 versus a share in revenues earned at a rate of € 200 per hour for every prostitute working during that hour. Brothel operators continue to pursue prostitution because they balance the rationality of pursuing such high rewards against what they perceive to be low or acceptable risks. Thus the scales are tipped in favour of reward on the basis of a rational commitment to economics. The second step is similar to the first, save that the economic model is now applied to human trafficking . The rewards are much as they were before. The victim of human trafficking forced into commercial sex slavery is still sold at usual market rates. The difference in this instance is that a greater share of the € 200 earned from each hour’s work, from each victim, is allocated to the brothel operator.

The focus now turns again to the issue of risk. Two risks are readily conceived. The first again is that of legal sanction. This is probably quite low. Until quite recently, no one in Ireland had ever “been convicted in the Irish courts for human trafficking or been given a significant sentence for aggravated pimping”. 11 This changed in 2010 when the first two convictions were secured under Ireland’s new Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008. 12 Overall, it is likely the case that operators of brothels have incurred no more legal sanction for trafficking than they would have for regular prostitution-related offences. The second risk is again associated with market deterioration. The risk here is the same as it was in the first step of the model, so no additional cost need be apportioned.

At this point, a judgement is needed as to the balance of risk and reward. Recall for a moment the rules of the economic approach. The approach is primarily about assessing the balance between risk and reward. As a decision rooted entirely in economics, it is one that requires no moral judgment whatsoever. The judgement is purely economic and presumes only that participants will act in accordance with their own economic self-interest. In the first instance , the economic approach illustrated how brothel operators had weighed up the risk and the reward: infringement of Ireland’s Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Act, 1993 versus a share in revenues earned at a rate of € 200 per hour for every prostitute working during that hour and had come down in favour of pursuing the rewards. In this second instance, the rewards are even greater, bestowing an even greater portion of the work of the sex worker upon the brothel operator. The risks are largely the same as they were in the first step of the approach. Thus economic rationality alone is sufficient to show why brothel operators would choose to pursue human trafficking, given that the risks are the same as prostitution and the rewards considerably greater than the activity in which they already engage. This is why Kara says:

Sex slavery is primarily a crime of economic benefit; that is, the slave owner exploits slaves to minimize labor costs and maximize profits.”

So too can the risks be quantified globally. Figures provided by the United States government reveal that, in 2009, only 4,501 persons were successfully prosecuted across the world for human trafficking and forced labour offences. This is negligible compared to the estimated 12.3 million victims worldwide. 16 Thus the risks associated with human trafficking traditionally have been low: little risk to money and little risk of legal sanction. There is little reason to suppose that a person engaged in organising prostitution has taken on any additional risk by also engaging in human trafficking. The paradox is that, by looking at prostitution from the perspective of a brothel operator, the perspective is more likely to support the link between prostitution and human trafficking than to erode it. The rewards are so significant and the risks so low that making the extra return is a straightforward matter of rational behaviour and economics. In the words of Siddarth Kara, “Slave labor makes profits soar”. 17

Many of the characteristics exhibited by those who engage in prostitution reflect the priority of an economic perspective . For example, the recession is overtly acknowledged on one Irish website, with punters invited to “Ride out the Recession with budget female escorts”. 18 The reference to “budget” is noteworthy and demonstrates four economic aspects. Firstly, as Andrees points out, that pimps and other actors, conscious of what is being sought by the punter, have “responded to changing pattern of demand”. 19 One website allows punters to provide reviews of their experience and these reviews are publicly available.[…]

The response in the form of lower prices recognises that punters cannot afford to pay high prices in times of recession . Secondly, this response reveals that operators in the prostitution business logically may be getting a lower return, assuming unit transactions remain steady, with incoming monies declining and with costs remaining relatively stagnant. So, as long as reducing prices has not increased business, those engaged in the sale of sexual services will be making less money. If the price changes provided here are reflected across the rest of prostitution in Ireland, then prices will have declined by 37.5%, hence there is less reward. This would certainly be a motivating factor to source cheaper labour through human trafficking. Thirdly, references to the recession could have been predicted by the application of an economic perspective. Fourthly, it confirms the suitability of an economic perspective in which brothel operators are acting rationally, in response to market conditions.

In an interview with Mary Crilly of Ireland’s Sexual Violence Centre, she noted how prostitutes are treated by pimps as though they are nothing more than merchandise: “the pimps will talk about them as merchandise”. 22 Interestingly this too attests to the application of economics. As far as the pimps are concerned, they are not dealing with people but rather with products. Even the very language used, which describes the victim in commoditised terms, informs the observer of the trafficker’s perspective. Ms. Crilly recognises that trafficking comes down to economics and that it “makes financial sense”.

“On the issue of prostitution, Ms. Crilly observes the manner in which the issue is framed. By focusing on the issue as prostitution rather than on the abuse that occurs within it, other considerations are drawn in. In effect, the sexual needs of the punter exceed all other considerations: “he needs it”. The sexual needs of punters are given priority, with the implication that other concerns immediately become secondary at best. Thus a tolerance of prostitution emerges. Ironically, while society may be willing to tolerate punters availing of the services of prostitutes, she makes the point that it is the punters themselves who are unwilling to be associated with it. She notes too how tolerance does not extend to the sex workers themselves, wherever they may be. She is fully conscious of the implications for women who escape trafficking and the probability that they would be “demonised if they went back to their own village. They’d be … seen as dirty … not human anymore”. Having endured so much, it is the raped woman who ends up ashamed. A two-fold process seems to be at play, in which the sexual needs of male punters are given priority while the women damaged by those needs are demonised and dismissed. In effect, in society “we’re protecting the abusers all the time”, she says.

Furthermore, Ms. Crilly sees no need to distinguish between the means by which the abuses came about. Many of the abuses perpetrated against victims of human trafficking are the same abuses perpetrated against prostitutes, yet Irish society distinguishes between them. Ms. Crilly does not entertain this distinction . Her focus is on the abuse, the consequences of which her organisation seeks to heal, rather on the means by which it was brought about . In drawing attention to how Irish society differentiates between certain abuses, she illuminates how a false distinction is being made when one scrutinises the situation from the perspective of the impact upon the victim. Exasperated, she poses the question:

How can a man in Ireland, knowing full well in his head, that this person is not 18, that this person has absolutely been trafficked and just do what he wants to do and throw the money there and walk away? …. and then rate her on the website [where she was advertised online]?

She notes too that, while there are 1,000 women working in prostitution in Ireland today, few of them are Irish. Several sources claim, some citing Irish police sources, that as many as 90% of Ireland’s prostitutes are not Irish. 18 The presence of non-nationals in circumstances of prostitution makes their engagement with that activity even more likely to be the result of human trafficking.”


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