Dear Amber Rudd MP, Home Secretary,
I am writing to protest the raids and arrests of sex workers in Chinatown and Soho on the night of Thursday 20th October. The English Collective of Prostitutes has reported that 12 people were taken by immigration and 6 people were charged with controlling prostitution, an offence which penalises anyone who associates or works alongside sex workers.
My questions and concerns about this operation are outlined below:
- Why are police resources being squandered on raiding women working together in the relative safety of flats and parlours? In practice, crackdowns break up safety networks and force women to work in isolation, making them more vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence.
- Why have the women been taken by immigration? Where are they now? Are they being helped? The police and media outlets have called the crackdown “slavery raids”. But no victims were found. It’s true that many immigrant sex workers work in Soho, most of them mothers supporting families in the UK and other countries. But as women themselves say “foreign doesn’t make us forced”. Thai women were particularly targeted.
- There have been reports in the media that £35,000 was seized by police during the raids. Why are the police allowed to profit by taking women’s hard earned cash? It’s also worth noting that flats opposite gentrified areas were targeted for closure, further fuelling suspicions that profiteering and land grabs are behind the raids.
Police crackdowns like this are happening all over the UK, with thousands of women a year being arrested, raised, prosecuted and even imprisoned. This is particularly worrying for me at a time of widespread benefit cuts and sanctions where more women, particularly mothers, are having to sell sex to ensure their children are fed.
I would like to know why you, as Home Secretary with responsibility for policing are not taking any action to rein in the police, stop the raids and prioritise women’s safety?
I demand the immediate release of the women arrested and the return of their money. This targeting of women must stop.