A group which works with women in prostitution, Ruhama, has said today's report on the illegal trafficking of women to work in the sex industry does not reflect the situation on the ground.

The report compiled by gardaí and the Department of Justice said Ireland was at risk from an increase in human trafficking, but that only a small number of cases have been uncovered by numerous special garda operations in recent years.

Ruhama says last year alone it dealt with more than 30 women who it believed were trafficked to work in the sex industry.

The group says gardaí are working with very limited resources and inadequate legislation.

Since the year 2000, Ruhama says it has noticed a dramatic increase in foreign national women working in the sex industry. It estimates that up to 90% of women working in the industry come from outside Ireland.

Today's report was published to coincide with a Crimestoppers poster campaign aimed at targeting the criminal activity.

One garda operation - 'Operation Quest' - has seen hundreds of women from the lap dancing industry interviewed by gardaí.

It is specifically investigating allegations that women are being illegally brought into the State for employment in the sex industry.

Around 100,000 women are trafficked every year in Europe. It is thought many of these women are sourced in eastern Europe by criminal groups.

IHRC welcomes initiative

The Irish Human Rights Commission has welcomed the initiative.

The commission’s president, Dr Maurice Manning, said: 'Trafficking in human beings constitutes one of the most severe violations of human rights in the world today. It has been identified as a contemporary form of slavery.

'This issue has been highlighted for some time by the Irish Human Rights Commission and in that context we endorse the measures announced today.'

The report concludes that despite gardaí only detecting a small number of cases, there is no room for complacency.

It makes 13 separate recommendations, including the strengthening of legislation, continuation of special garda operations and increased cross border co-operation.

The poster campaign to encourage people with information to speak out will focus on airports, ports, bus and train stations.

It will provide a freephone number to report suspected human trafficking activities.