A voluntary organisation helping women affected by prostitution says there has been an increase in the number of cases of sex trafficking it dealt with last year.

Ruhama also says there has been an 8.5% increase in street prostitution.

Face-to-face support for victims of both indoor and street-based prostitution increased by over 33% last year.

Ruhama provided support to over 300 women from 37 different countries, including 88 victims of sex trafficking.

The organisation said there is an urgent need to properly resource the garda unit set up to tackle the problem.

It said the penalties for the crime are extremely small compared to the enormous profits that can be gained.

It has called for tougher sanctions to be imposed on those convicted.

It also said the Garda National Protective Services Bureau, which is responsible for investigating the crime, needs to be adequately resourced as a matter of urgency.