Campaigners welcome trafficking raid, but express concern for women
Human rights and church-based campaigners in the UK have welcomed a major police crackdown on people traffickers. At the same they have expressed concern for women freed in the raids.
On Tuesday 8 May 2006, more than 50 officers investigating alleged sex trafficking took into custody 19 women in a string of early morning raids on brothels in London and the West Midlands.
Police arrested 12 people, including the suspected ringleader, who was seized along with his partner at a hotel in north London. The suspected traffickers are thought to be of Vietnamese origin, while the women are believed to be from Malaysia.
The suspects have been arrested on suspicion of charges including trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and controlling prostitution, says Independent Catholic News.
The raids were carried out as part of Operation Pentameter, a national campaign launched in February 2006, which helps women brought into the UK and forced into prostitution against their will.
Reacting to the news, Mike Blakemore from Amnesty International said: ìAmnesty welcomes the police crackdown on traffickers and their vicious trade in women who are held prisoner and forced to work as prostitutes. But we need to know now what protection the women reportedly rescued from these properties are receiving.î
He continued: "The fact is, currently, trafficked women have no guaranteed protection in the UK. The law sees them simply as illegal immigrants and British people would be appalled to know that many of them are deported to countries where they could be at serious risk of being re-trafficked.
Says Blakemore: "Victims of trafficking have had all of their very basic human rights violated ? we must turn the system around so that they are recognised as the victims and not the perpetrators of crime. The UK government must sign up to the new European Convention Against Trafficking.î
"The European Convention Against Trafficking guarantees emergency housing and medical care for victims and gives them a month to recover from the trauma and make some decisions about what they need to do next," Amnesty declares
Echoing this statement, Angela Perkins from the National Board of Catholic Women said: "We fully support the comments made by Amnesty International. With them and many others the NBCW continues to lobby the government to sign up to the European Convention Against Trafficking and provide care and a safe return for those women who have been so appallingly exploited.î
She added: "While we know provision for rescued women is inadequate, many Roman Catholic Religious Orders are already involved in rehabilitation work in Albania and in setting up safe houses here in England."
Declared Perkins: "It would be an act of justice if some of the millions of money confiscated by the government from convicted traffickers was released in order to help these projects."
She continued: "In addition to the dramatic rescue of trafficked women in this country, we would like to know what the UK is doing to put pressure on the German Government to make sure they are preparing to do all they can to prevent the same exploitation of women at the reported 'pitches' for mass prostitution available during the World Cup."
Berlin, where prostitution is legal, has built new facilities for more than 650 women to provide sexual services for World Cup fans. As previously reported on Ekklesia, campaigners believe many of these women will be have been trafficked.
Home Office research estimated that up to 1,420 women were trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation in 2000. Since this study was completed it is widely acknowledged that the problem of human trafficking has increased significantly.
The European Convention Against Trafficking guarantees trafficked people a 'reflection period' of at least 30 days during which time they can receive support to aid their recovery, including safe housing and emergency medical support;
It also offers temporary residence permits for trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country, and/or if it is necessary to assist criminal proceedings.
The UK Home Office currently funds just one care and accommodation centre for trafficked women - the London-based Poppy Project.
The Poppy Project provides 25 bed spaces, and access criteria are narrow and dependent on women's cooperation with investigations or prosecutions.
Demand for spaces greatly exceeds supply. There is as yet still no safe house for children who have been trafficked.
Meanwhile CHASTE (Churches Alert to Sex Trafficking in Europe) has been developing a network of European Churches responding to the increasing trade in sexploitative labour.
Alongside this there is coordination through the Churchesí Commission on Migrants in Europe of an EU funded project connecting churches and church agencies involved in anti-trafficking initiatives and survivor support.
CHASTE seeks to work with the World Evangelical Alliance through the Asha forum, the Russian Orthodox Church through the Sourozh diocese, Lutheran churches in Scandinavia, the European network of Baptist churches, the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church (particularly its Religious Congregations) and the historical and new independent churches of Africa.
CHASTE is an ecumenically based charity connected through the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland and the Churches Together in England with over fifty different denominations within the United Kingdom.