You report claims that the Albanian Mafia has taken over Soho (“SoHopeless”, June 23rd). This is a government fabrication aimed at justifying a police clampdown on prostitute women there and laying the basis for anti trafficking legislation that would increase police powers at women’s expense.
In 1999, we successfully opposed attempts by Westminster Council to evict women from premises where they live and work. Many women would have been forced on to the streets where it is ten times more dangerous to work. In February this year, the Metropolitan Police’s Vice Unit and immigration officers raided the flats of 60 immigrant women working in Soho. They had fled war and devastation-including in Iraq and Kosovo. Some were mothers of young children and had pending asylum claims with the Home Office. They were dragged from their flats in front of TV cameras, arrested and summarily deported.
The raids, based on false police claims that children and women had been trafficked and were being held against their will, were publicly condemned and their legality challenged by women’s groups, prominent lawyers, MPs and church people. Not expecting to be called to account, the Vice Unit attempted to justify the raids. First, it claimed to be “protecting underage children”. None were found. It then said it was “liberating victims of trafficking”. No pimps or traffickers were discovered. Next, it said the raids were “part of a wider initiative to support Westminster residents”. The Soho Society, which represents residents, condemned the raids.
Whoever we are, if we face violence we need protection not deportation. The Economist should oppose this government and media witchhunt against immigrants and asylum-seekers. Cari Mitchel English Collective of Prostitutes.