Action Alert: Protest over raids against sex workers which undermine safety



What: Masked protest called by the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) with Sex Workers Open University (SWOU) and Sex Workers’ Opera (SWO)

When: Monday 24 October, 12-1pm

Where: Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF

For more information: ECP, (020) 7482 2496, 07811 964171

If you can’t make it to the protest:

1. Join us for banner making before at 10am at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, 25 Wolsey Mews, London, NW5 2DX.

2. Write to the Home Secretary to protest the raids. See template letter here.

3. Complain to the Evening Standard (ES) on twitter @standardnews about their report.

Please use hashtags #no2raids #SohoRaids #Sexworkers #StoptheRaids.

Template tweets:

  • ES called them “slavery raids”, where is the evidence?
  • Where is the evidence for the claim: premises “thought to be running as brothels with trafficked women.”
  • Where is the evidence: “police swooped in and rescued 10 women as part of an ongoing operation to tackle human trafficking.”
  • Where is the evidence that premises are “a hotbed for these types of crimes.”
  • ES repeats police claim that the aim of the raids is to find victims and take them to safety – no the aim appears to be to deport women, steal their money.
  • If the aim was “bringing to justice those who seek to profit from the exploitation of vulnerable people,” then why did police steal women’s money?
  • The evidence showed that “Similar raids in Soho in the past” WERE NOT against premises “allegedly linked to rape, sex trafficking and muggings.”  

Six premises in Chinatown and Soho, where sex workers were working, were raided last night. 18 people were arrested: 12 have been removed on immigration grounds, six for other offences. Thai women were particularly targeted.

Westminster police slapped closure notices on the doors of premises and threw women out onto the street. They say they were targeting “suspected brothels” and looking for trafficked women. But yet again no victims were found. Flats opposite gentrified areas were targeted for closure and police took £35,000 fuelling suspicions that profiteering and land grabs are behind the raids. Women called the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) saying that the raids have left terrified. 

ECP Laura Watson commented:

“Yet again anti-trafficking policies are being used to justify raids and deportations against immigrant sex workers. Some women in the area suffered violent attacks and robberies in recent months but the police did nothing. Instead police resources are being squandered on raiding women working together in the relative safety of flats. We are living in very harsh times with more women, particularly mothers, having to sell sex to ensure their children are fed. Why isn’t the government taking action to rein in the police, stop the raids and prioritise women’s safety? Benefit sanctions and other cuts have left women destitute and must be repealed.” 

Ms Watson was interviewed yesterday on Woman’s Hour about a new report documenting huge increases in women selling sex for basic survival. This scandal has come to national attention since Ken Loach’s award-winning film I, Daniel Blake launched this week. It tells the story of Katie, a single mother going into prostitution after she and her two children are made destitute. Ms Watson was at the vigil during the film’s premiere, with disabled people, pensioners and relatives of loved ones who killed by sanctions. The film stars Dave Johns and Hayley Squires insisted on being photographed with placards which read: “1 in 4 low-income mothers skip meals to feed their kids.”  

After the arrests last night, four women and one man were charged with controlling prostitution — an offence which penalises anyone who associates or works alongside sex workers. Closure Notices have been endorsed by the courts this morning ensuring that women had no time to challenge them, in breach of their legal rights.

Police crackdowns like this are happening all over the UK. Research by the ECP shows that between April and September this year there have been at least 50 closures of premises with hundreds of women criminalised. This targeting of women must stop.

Amnesty International, who have policy to decriminalise sex work say:

“Criminalization of sex work creates an environment where law enforcement officers and other officials can perpetrate violence, harassment and extortion against sex workers with impunity. Where sex workers face the threat of criminalization, penalization or loss of livelihood when or if they report crimes against themselves to police, their access to justice and equal protection under the law is significantly compromised This, in turn, offers impunity to perpetrators of violence and abuse against sex workers.”  

Join us outside the Home Office to demand an end to criminalization, poverty and deportation. Arrest rapists and murderers, not working mothers!

Statement from SWOU.