Monday, April 14, 2008

Comments on Sex Trafficking in the UK

By Louise Ellman MP

From LX News:

Dr Martin Luther King Junior once said that “an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

One of the glaring injustices that still blights our world today is the trafficking of women The International Labour Organisation has stated that 2.4 million people each year are victims of trafficking, generating profits of over $30 billion. But what about human trafficking into the United Kingdom? A modern form of sex slavery is in fact flourishing here too.

Ten years ago 85% of UK sex workers were native born. Today, 85% of these come from abroad in the new international slave trade. Many women are promised regular jobs in this country.

The reality, as the Crown Prosecution Service has discovered, is that many of these women are traded at “slave auctions” on the concourse of British airports. £4000 buys a woman, who will then have her passport confiscated and will be forced to work as a prostitute. There was a horrific case in 2006 of a 14 year old Lithuanian girl being sold for £8000 because she was a virgin.

The Home Office estimates that 4000 women are being exploited in this way in the United Kingdom, though this is clearly an underestimate giving the underreporting by victims.

In Sweden, human trafficking has been significantly reduced by criminalising the traffickers and pimps instead of the women themselves. Currently there are discussions amongst senior government figures, including the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith on this issue.

The Association of Police Officers has called for the help of men who use prostitutes to report instances where sex workers cannot speak English, or where there are signs of coercion. The Government has taken firm action. It has set up in Sheffield the UK trafficking centre which deals with traffickers and victims, as well as looking at enforcement and intelligence. It has signed the European Convention on Human Trafficking.

Home Office officials will be given special training to assist them in identifying traffickers. The Poppy Project has provided safe houses for victims.

Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said: “Contemporary forms of slavery-from bonded labour to human trafficking are flourishing as a result of discrimination, social exclusion and vulnerability exacerbated by poverty.

We need a new concerted effort to end a scandal that disgraces both the world and our country.

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