An organisation that helps women in prostitution has reported an 18% increase in the number of people accessing its services last year.

Ruhama said it has also seen a rise in the numbers of women trafficked to Ireland to work in the sex trade.

Ruhama has been operating in Ireland for 25 years, during which time it has assisted more than 2,500 women affected by prostitution.

In its annual report published today, the charity said it helped 305 women from 36 different countries last year.

That is an 18% increase on the numbers accessing the service on the previous year.

The organisation has also seen a rise in prostitution and trafficking organised by criminal gangs, with 83 of the 305 women who engaged with the service last year being trafficked.

Ruhama said the largest number of new cases involved women from Nigeria and Brazil.

It said the majority of women involved in prostitution want to exit the life, but to do so need the necessary supports and assistance to create real alternatives.

The organisation also wants the Government to fast track proposed new laws to criminalise the buying of sex.

It is looking towards Scandinavian countries and the laws that have been enacted there.