We condemn last week’s police and immigration raid on women working in Soho as a violation of human and legal rights (Foreign bodies, Women, G2, February 20). In the name of “protecting” women from trafficking, about 40 women, including a woman from Iraq, were arrested, detained and in some cases summarily removed from Britain. If any of these women have been trafficked – whether into prostitution, domestic work or marriage – they deserve protection and resources, not punishment by expulsion.
We know that a number of those arrested have fled to UK because of the war in Kosovo and have made asylum claims. Some are rape victims. Some have young children. From our experience, the draconian voucher and dispersal system deprives asylum seekers and their families of enough to eat and other basic necessities of life. It is hardly surprising if some women end up as sex workers to feed their children and themselves.
Having forced women into destitution, the government first criminalised those who begged. Now it is trying to use prostitution as a way to make deportation of the vulnerable more acceptable. We will not allow such injustice to go unchallenged.
Legal Action for Women
Tony Benn MP,
Ian Macdonald QC,
and other legal and immigration professionals
The Soho raids to “liberate” victims of trafficking was an abuse of power. Women were led to believe they could expect protection, only to find themselves arrested and deported. This raid lays the basis for trafficking legislation which would give the police greater power of arrest, while the women on whose behalf they’re supposedly acting would no longer need to give evidence – the police, not the victim, would testify about the truth of her situation. She would have been deported before the trial. How convenient and corrupting.
For this dehumanisation of women we have to thank people like Julie Bindel of North London University, quoted in your article, who reduce to pornographic flesh the sex workers they research. Bindel seems particularly concerned about interracial sex: “… the men [in Cambodia] want white women, the men [in Thailand] want black women”. What if some gentlemen prefer blondes and others brunettes? Is this a reason to persecute women, or even men? Surely the crime of trafficking is violence against women, not sex with men.
We recently objected that some projects, some funded by the Home Office, are not independent of the police and are being drawn into “intelligence gathering”. While we picketed the Home Office following the Soho raids, they evoked no protest from these projects – some girls’ jobs are more important than other girls’, especially if the others are “foreigners”.
English Collective of Prostitutes
This is the full list of signatories of Legal Action for Women’s letter
Reverend Francis Ackroyd, Tottenham
Niki Adams, Legal Action for Women
Cristel Amiss, Black Women’s Rape Action Project
Tony Benn, MP
David Burgess, Winstanley-Burgess
Sara Callaway, Black Women for Wages for Housework
Colin Hutchinson, Two Garden Court Chambers
Alastair Lyon, Birnberg, Peirce & Partners
Ian Macdonald, QC
Ben Martin, Payday
Sonali Naik, Chair, Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Explo Nani Kolfi, African Liberation Support Campaign
Anne Neale, Women Against Rape
Gareth Peirce, Birnberg, Peirce & Partners
Sr. Barbara Porter, Social Justice Desk, Conference of Religious of England & Wales
Sawsan Salim, Kurdistan Refugee Women’s Organisation
Michael Schwarz, Bindman & Co
Richard Solly & Arlington Trottman, Churches Commission for Racial Justice
Anne-Marie Tootell, Wilson & Co
and other legal professionals, women and men