Tuesday, June 06, 2006
Slavery in Britain today
Nazir Afzal, Director of the Crown prosecution Service has made the startling claim that: “slave auctions are being held in public places at airports where brothel keepers are bidding for women destined for prostitution.’’ One auction had taken place outside a coffee shop in the arrivals hall at Gatwick Airport, the CPS said. Others were believed to have been staged at Heathrow, Stansted and other British airports.
According to the Independent, Det Chief Supt Eyles of the Vice Squad argues that many of the foreign women who work in brothels come to Britain specifically to work in the sex industry, rather than being innocent victims. He claims the women buy forged documents from the traffickers before being smuggled into the country, while others come as tourists but do not leave. He claims that the women can make huge amounts of money - from £5,000 to £10,000 a week. That may be the case for some individual women, and would be their choice, But this attitude shows gross complacency from the police when faced with the growing problem of slavery, and not only sex slavery, but also indentured and unfree domestic service, and work in agriculture. One example is the appalling case of “Veronica”, the 16 year old Lithuanian girl rescued from a brothel in Hounslow last year, who had been tricked into coming to the UK, and then held here as a slave. She earned £800 per day for her pimps, but was not given a penny of it herself.
Last year’s report (1 MB PDF) from the ILO revealed that there are currently 12.3 million slaves in the world, and 2.4 million of them have been transported via illegal slave “trafficking”. This includes 270000 slaves brought against their will into the industrialised countries. In the West 77% of slaves are coerced into the sex trade, and 23% for other economic activity.
The latest government figures suggest that there are at least 1500 prostitutes held as slaves in the UK, many from Lithuania, and from ILO estimates this would indicate that there are over 300 slaves in the UK being used for work outside the sex trade. The ILO estimates that globally 98% of slaves in the sex trade are women or children, and between 40% and 50% of all victims are children.
Most shockingly, a survey by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) of 185 clients of prostitutes in Italy, Sweden and Japan found that only half say they would report slavery to the police if they knew about it, and others said they preferred young and unfree girls, as they were more docile.
Many of these women feel trapped into prostitution because their status in Britain is illegal. If they come forward to the authorities they will probably be deported, but as the Poppy Project who work with trafficked women says, “If they return, some of the women are tracked down and re-trafficked, or the women go missing. Some of my colleagues have helped girls who wanted to go home – only for them to disappear.”
But fear of rape or abduction for sex is not treated by the Home Office as grounds for asylum. Women Against Rape are launching a dossier of misjudged cases, and a fact sheet for advisors at a public meeting on Friday 23 June 06, 11am Trinity United Reformed Church, Buck Street, Camden Town, London NW1