ON May 15 The Voice (‘Sex Slaves Freed’) reported on the joint police/immigration Operation Pentameter which claims to have freed 19 victims of sex trafficking. But police are reportedly arranging with charities to return some of the women to Malaysia. Deportation is the reality behind the headlines.
The Poppy Project, set up to deal with victims of trafficking and recently awarded a further £2.4m by the Government to work alongside law enforcement and immigration agencies, is part of the smoke screen.
In our experience, victims of trafficking are disbelieved and detained when trying to claim asylum. Our centre has had to fight to get a teenage asylum seeker who had been trafficked out of prison.
At the same time, trafficking is being used as an excuse to raid women working independently from premises and even steal their hard-earned cash.
A number of women have complained to us about police taking their money during raids. In this climate, how can women forced into prostitution or other exploitation call on the police for protection?
Cari Mitchell, English Collective of Prostitutes
The Voice letters, 30 May 2006