Elizabeth bravely escaped from her traffickers and has fought to obtain qualifications and build a life for herself and her family in Ireland.
I am not a victim. I am a survivor.
I first arrived in Ireland in 2010 and was sexually exploited. I managed to escape my traffickers in 2011. Somehow I made it from where I was being kept in Cork all the way up to the INIS office in Dublin. I didn’t know where I was going, but I got there and when I told them what had happened, they took me to a direct provision centre where I lived for six months. I wasn’t sure if I was in a safe space yet, but I kept telling myself ‘I am strong. I will get through this.’ It wasn’t until I was directed towards Ruhama and they provided counselling which helped me get through it. Ruhama recommended I go to the Immigrant Council to find a lawyer to support me with my immigration application.
The Department of Justice had initially given me 6 months residency which I had to renew every 6 months. It was so frustrating to have to go INIS to register as I didn’t want my boyfriend to know that I was formerly involved in prostitution. After a few years they gave me a longer residency permit – for two years. I am now eligible to apply for citizenship and will do so soon. The Immigrant Council did a great job supporting me through all this. They are still supporting me for example when I need to renew my permission and also with the family reunification visa application for my daughter, and now citizenship.
It was a horrendous experience but I am lucky I can say I have moved on now and overcome the fear. I did my healthcare qualification at Marino College in 2013 and am now working in the area. I have three children who are 13, four and one whom I need to support. After what I went through I don’t want to do anything against the law. I want to pay my taxes and be a useful member of society.
Last year I was able to go home and visit my dad for a few weeks. My life is so different now. I am far, far better. At the start you have to go to the HSE, immigration office, go to a support organisation. You have to go here and go there to ‘prove’ yourself, talk about the trauma you have been through over and over again. Despite the horror you have been through. Every time it feels like they don’t believe you. They don’t understand how hard it is to talk about this – what these men did to me.
But I am happy now. I am working, I am being a good citizen in Ireland. I want to stay here and bring up my children here.
*Names have been changed to protect anonymity.