A local politician is calling on the Gardai to investigate allegations that women and children are being solicited for prostitution and trafficking outside hostels/direct provision accommodation centres for asylum seekers in Galway.
Senator Fidelma Healy Eames is seeking “random Garda patrols” in the vicinity of these facilities to stamp out “this scandal”.
“This has come as shocking information to me. Galway Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC ) reports reveal that the men involved know they [the asylum seekers] are broke and know where they are. They are waiting with the promise of ‘I can get you work and somewhere nice to live’.
“I want this investigated by the Gardai. I want random patrols until these people are picked up.
“I’m also bringing this issue to the attention of the Minister for Health and Children. We must act responsibly.
“Our aim as a society should be to prevent another Ryan Report [on child abuse] in 10 years time but I’m not at all clear that we are doing that.”
Launching GRCC’s first national conference on sexual violence - which will be held in Galway on November 27 - she said she was shocked by the centre’s figures which reveal that 20 per cent of its clients being raped/abused are asylum seekers.
She stated this was “totally disproportionate” considering that this group make up less than one per cent of Galway’s population.
She outlined it costs the State €27,000 to keep an asylum seeker in direct provision accommodation per year.
She believed a “safer and less expensive” alternative would be for the Department of Justice to provide them with an allowance through the social welfare system.
“If it were to provide an allowance to the value of the dole, about €200, plus rent allowance, asylum seekers would be able to keep themselves.
“It would be a whole lot cheaper, about €18,000 which would save the State €9,000 a year. It would also be more dignified and safer for them.”
The Fine Gael senator stressed that rape/sexual abuse/violence affects Irish men, women and children from all strata of society.
One in four children, one in six women and one in nine men are affected.
Senator Healy Eames lauded the “incredible work” being done by the GRCC and said the one day conference will produce a set of practical solutions which will help create a society free from sexual abuse and violence.
“This conference is about highlighting the importance of speaking out for silenced members of the community who have suffered sexual abuse, violence, rape. They live in fear and are not in a position to speak for themselves. It is more than a conference because it marks the 25th anniversary of GRCC.
“Recently, I had an experience that changed forever my understanding of the work RCCs do. I met a 22-year-old woman, raped at 16 years. Unfortunately her school did not know how to cope and coped badly. The repercussions for her life at the time were extreme. It was a Rape Crisis Centre that helped her put her life back together again. That experience helped me to respect the work of Rape Crisis Centres and the importance of trained staff with the right expertise, the right understanding, the right skills.”
Entitled “The next 25 years - societal responses to rape and sexual abuse”, the GRCC’s national conference will take place at the Ardilaun on Friday November 27 from 9.30am to 5.30pm. It will explore how levels of sexual violence can be decreased and services for survivors improved over the next 25 years.
Guest speakers include Senator Ivan Bacik, Person of the Year, Michael O’Brien, Ailbhe Smyth of UCD Women’s Education Research and Resource Centre and TCD academic Dr Susan Smith who is best known for her work at the Centre for the Care of Survivors of Torture in Spirasi.
Acting executive director of the centre Aoibheann McCann said the event will be a milestone in its history.
“We have been in Galway for 25 years but instead of looking back we would like to look forward and to work toward a society where people can live free from sexual violence.
“We are honoured by the guest speakers attending and delighted with the quality of academic papers that have been submitted.”
Tickets for the conference and gala fundraising dinner which follows the event can bought through GRCC’s website www.galwayrcc.org or by contacting the centre at (091 ) 583149.