Vulnerable women need protection, not deportation
Under the guise of concern for women who are being trafficked into Britain, Home Office ministers, police and academics are discussing measures to tighten immigration controls and increase police powers. This would make women more vulnerable.
Immigrant women who are victims of violence and exploitation have said over and over again that fear of deportation is the biggest obstacle to reporting their exploiters to the police. There is nothing on the conference agenda about offering protection – legal advice, resources and the right to stay – so that women can come forward in safety.
The Report the conference is based on gatherered information from police, journalists, newspaper reports and trawling the internet. No sex workers were contacted. The English Collective of Prostitutes, which has opposed the use of trafficking as an excuse for deportation, and put forward measures which would strengthen vulnerable women has been banned from attending the conference.
Home Office Minister Barbara Roche is the key speaker. We know from experience that her anti-trafficking and anti-immigration agendas are the same. In 1999 we helped a woman who had escaped from pimps, only to face deportation – the Home Office had called her bogus.
We particularly oppose recommendations that:
- Police undertake simple intelligence gathering on off street prostitution with particular attention to the presence of foreign women. This will increase racism and xenophobia against immigrant sex workers, and repression against all sex workers. On 8 March, women in Soho, under threat of eviction by Westminster Council, took part in the Global Women’s Strike to protest that the police were using trafficking as an excuse to illegally enter their homes and gather information which was then passed on to the Council. This was done by the same officers who are speaking at this conference.
- Developing long-term sustained prevention campaigns in the sending countries most linked to trafficking. This is a euphemism for strengthening immigration controls against Third World women. No measures are being proposed to address the poverty which makes women in the South vulnerable to trafficking.
- Trafficking be consideredan aggravating factor in living off immoral earnings cases. Little is ever done against the violent pimps women report – the police say it takes too long to get the evidence. Instead of offering protection so that witnesses can come forward, the police want to prosecute men without the victim’s evidence or consent.
Thurs 6 July 2000, 9 am the Barbican
English Collective of Prostitutes Crossroads Women’s Centre
230A Kentish Town Rd London NW5 2AB Tel: 020-7482 2496 Fax: 020-7209 4761