A trafficking survivor spent four years as a sex trafficker in brothels and private homes, became estranged from her son and was eventually smuggled into Ireland – and suffered abuse both on those shores and abroad.
Originally from South Africa, iphamandla was drugged and sexually assaulted repeatedly for four years and in two different brothels before fleeing to Ireland where she was assaulted.
At today’s EU Anti-Trafficking Day, she and other trafficking survivors shared their experiences and presented a new film highlighting the prevalence of trafficking in Ireland.
the short film, Everyone cheatedwas hosted by the International Organization for Migration Ireland and the Department of Justice and chronicled the story of two different people being smuggled into Ireland for the purpose of sexual and labor exploitation – and stressed how easily this can happen.
Siphamandla spoke to that Irish Independent about her life and how she ended up being a victim of human trafficking in her native South Africa.
“I met someone the way people meet people, just on the street. It got to the point where I trusted him. He invited me to his city. He booked me a hotel.
“It was set up like a brothel with bars, six floors and only girls staying in the hotel, but it was open to customers.
“When I was forced to stay in this hotel, nurses came to treat us for abortions, miscarriages or overdoses. Maybe a girl tried to harm herself, or a client harmed a girl. When we needed medical help, these people paid doctors, nurses, and police officers who knew everything that was happening.
“I was held there, given drugs and alcohol. I had no access to the outside world. There were about 400 of us in the hotel, with so many different girls from Thailand, the Philippines, Europe, Africa. I was there for two years until I tried to escape,” Siphamandla said.
According to a UN report, around 50,000 victims of human trafficking were discovered and reported worldwide in 2018 – the actual number is likely to be much higher due to the hidden nature of the crime.
Siphamandla’s first escape attempt in the back of a recycling truck ended in her being hospitalized.
“I woke up in the hospital the next day and he was there. I found out I had a miscarriage and I must have passed out because of it.
“This time he took me somewhere else because he knew I could do it again if I tried to get away. This time it was completely private, it was a house with surveillance cameras. We were about eight or nine.”
Siphamandla overdosed at the house and is unsure what happened next. All she knows is that she woke up in a shipping container on her way to sea.
“I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know how to get there. I don’t know how many days I was there. I was unconscious and unconscious. There was nobody else in the container.”
She was then taken to the Irish coast in a smaller boat.
“I was held in Ireland for a long time in some kind of industrial area. It was hell there, but it was a better hell because I wasn’t forced to do things, I wasn’t physically hurt.
“One day I said to them, ‘Look where I’m from, that was crazy. When I’m here I feel better. Nobody’s going to get in trouble if you just let me go. I promise.’ They put me in the car and gave me 50 euros and then they dropped me off outside Dublin,” she said.
Siphamandla then approached the International Protection Office (IPO), who offered her accommodation shared with men. She said she was attacked at the property.
“My worst fears came true. The man is in jail at the moment, he was arrested because they saw him on the tape. The government should provide shelters specifically for victims of human trafficking so that they can live on their own.
“There is a sense of security here, but not 100 percent. It’s better where I’ve been for the past four years. The fact that I have a choice. I can do what I want. I can be where I want. That’s what I’ve been missing in my life for the past four years. So now it’s happening again and it’s overwhelming.
Siphamandla has just started college studies in travel and tourism supported by the NGO Ruhama, which supported 136 victims of human trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2021.
When asked about the reason for travel and tourism, Siphamandla said: “I was held in a home for four years. I don’t want anything holding me back, I want to be everywhere.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/woman-tells-of-trafficking-ordeal-and-how-she-was-smuggled-to-ireland-in-shipping-container-42077124.html Woman tells of the ordeal of human trafficking and how she was smuggled to Ireland in a shipping container