Ireland's largest sexual services website has seen a 250% increase in searches for Ukrainian escorts, according to an expert in human trafficking.

Dr Valiant Richey told the national conference of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, that there had been an increase in searches that relate to "sexually accessing Ukrainian women" worldwide since the start of the war.

Dr Richey, who is the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Special Representative and Co-ordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, said there had been a 600% increase in searches for "Ukrainian porn" across multiple languages and countries and a 200% increase in searches for "Ukrainian escorts".

There was a 250% increase in interest in "Ukrainian escorts" on the Irish sexual services site, according to Mr Richey, as well as the opportunity to "live out their war-inspired fantasies."

The conference heard that while technology means there are unlimited options for people who want to pay for sex, the problem is that many are victims of trafficking.

"That's why technology and trafficking has been one of the prominent topics in global anti trafficking," he said.

Asked if Ireland needed to do more - given that the country hosts so many tech companies - he said "Ireland needs to say that is not OK, we don't care where you are operating."

He said policy options to shut down websites that are exploiting people for sex needed to be explored, adding that the EU required a more comprehensive approach to tackle the issue.

The EU's Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in the European Commission Diane Schmitt acknowledged that the online dimension of trafficking human beings is very difficult to identify.

Ms Schmitt said that the Commission had launched a dialogue with internet companies to engage in monitoring, awareness raising and to take down information.

On trafficking as a result of the war in Ukraine, she said that swift action taken by EU countries at the end of February meant early detection of trafficking was pushed to the fore.

As a result, there were not a lot of confirmed cases of trafficking, according to Ms Schmitt, because risks were taken seriously. For once, she said, prevention worked.

However, she urged caution as public attention decreases and as Ukrainian refugees prepare to take jobs.

It is at this point, she warned that they could "fall into the hands" of traffickers.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was appointed Ireland's first Independent National Rapporteur on human trafficking in 2020.

Chief Commissioner Sinead Gibney said that the response to human trafficking in Ireland had developed separately from the established gender based violence support infrastructure of women's shelters and rape crisis centres.

In her opening speech she pointed out that this differed from the practices in other European countries, including in Northern Ireland.

"The reality for many victims in Ireland is that when they escape trafficking, they will be placed into the Direct Provision system - a system marred with serious human rights and equality concerns," she said.

"I reiterate our strong recommendation that victims of trafficking must be accommodated in gender-specific facilities with access to the full suite of necessary support services.

"Clearly, the administrative measures to provide safe places for victims to date have failed, and it is high time to consider legislative steps."

The conference also heard from three survivors of trafficking to Ireland who spoke about the difficulties they faced.

All of them credited Ruhama - the charity that works with victims of sexual exploitation and those working in prostitution - for its help.

One survivor who was sent from the asylum and refugee reception centre in Balseskin, Dublin, to a location in rural Ireland, commended the local Gardaí.

However, all three spoke about the traumatic experience of arriving in Ireland after being trafficked here and left on waiting lists for the rape crisis centre, risk assessments and psychological supports.