Published date22 October 2022
Publication titleIrish Times (Dublin, Ireland)
Emma was just 14 when she was married to an older man. "He told my family he was going to make my life better and give me an education. But we went to Turkey and he wouldn't let me speak to my family. I didn't have a mobile phone, I was just lost in the middle of nowhere."

She only managed to escape the situation when a woman she did not know offered to get her out of Turkey. "I think she had been watching me for some time and told me to trust her." Emma says she only decided to follow her because she was a nun, or dressed as one.

To this day, Emma does not know the true identity of the woman who, she says, flew with her to Dublin and abandoned her on a street in the city centre. With the help of a passerby, she found the International Protection Office where, scared and alone, she struggled to answer questions about her past. "When they asked me to explain it was the worst, having to think about it all was very painful."

The following year, shortly after Emma gave birth to her son, Lisa* went through a similar ordeal. She says she was 15 when the man who had smuggled her across Europe left her alone on a street in Dublin. Unlike Emma, she was taken away from her family against their will. She still does not understand why she was kidnapped but remembers being beaten, raped and forced to take pills. She also became pregnant - something she did not realise until after a medical examination in a Dublin hospital.

"I know I sound crazy when I tell my story," she says. "When I speak about it people judge me and ask silly questions. People here bombarded me with information about human trafficking, they asked me to tell my story, but I wasn't comfortable telling it. When the doctor said I was pregnant I panicked and told them to get rid of it. I just wanted to go back to my mum. It's still so hard to speak about it, to this day."


Lisa and Emma are two of the 475 victims of human trafficking who were formally identified in Ireland between 2013 and 2021. Of these, just 9 per cent (34) were children, significantly less than the 22 per cent EU average for child trafficking.

No child trafficking victims were identified in the Republic in 2020 and 2021. This compares to the 5,468 victims of child trafficking identified in the UK last year, a number the British government says was an "undercount". Concerns have also been repeatedly raised around the welfare and potential trafficking of the 39 unaccompanied children seeking asylum who went missing between 2017...

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