Press Release: Protests grow over raids and landgrabs in Chinatown & Soho

Press release . . . press release . . . Press release . . . press release . . . Press releas


What: Protest organised by the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) with Sex Workers Open University and Sex Workers’ Opera

When: Monday 24 October, 12-1pm

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

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

Six premises in Chinatown and Soho, where sex workers were working, were raided on Thursday night. 18 people were arrested. 12 women have been removed on immigration grounds. Many immigrant sex workers work in Soho, most of them mothers supporting families in the UK and other countries. Thai women were particularly targeted in these raids.

Police slapped closure notices on the doors of premises and threw women out onto the street. The police and Westminster council claim the raids were to save trafficked women, and crack down on prostitution and drugs. But yet again no victims were found. Flats opposite gentrified areas were targeted for closure and police took £35,000 in cash, 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 them terrified. 

ECP’s 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 Benefit sanctions and other cuts have left women destitute and must be repealed.”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.

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 yesterday 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.