Statement: Murder of sex worker in Ilford
ANOTHER PRECIOUS LIFE LOST
A 24-year-old woman was murdered on Monday night in Ilford Lane, Ilford. This tragic killing comes in the wake of Operation Clearlight a major police crackdown on street prostitution in this area which began in September. Over 200 women have received “prostitute cautions” and many have been arrested for loitering and soliciting and/or for breaching anti-social behaviour orders.
The killer is still at large. A man arrested after the murder, has been released without charge. The English Collective of Prostitutes is demanding that an amnesty from arrest for both sex workers and clients be immediately announced by the police to allow people to come forward with information.
Reports that women on Ilford Lane were running from police and forced into back streets and isolated areas particularly in the last few weeks no doubt meant that women were more vulnerable to attack.
The young woman who was murdered was Romanian. An increase in racism against Romanian people in particular, fuelled by an anti-immigrant witch-hunt by government and some media outlets may also have contributed to why she was targeted.
A Romanian sex worker, commented:
“When the police raided the premises where I work, they were rude and bullying, calling me names and accusing me of being a beggar and a criminal. They tried to get me deported even though I have the right to be in the UK. Often the police claim they are saving victims of trafficking but it is immigrant women like me who are targeted. Women can’t go to the police to report threats and violence if we are scared that we will be arrested or deported.”
The Ilford police were quoted as saying “Enforcement operations . . . send out the message that [street prostitution] will not be tolerated despite the reasons given by those who commit offences.” What reasons to they mean? Over 70% of sex workers are mothers, working to support families. Hundreds of thousands of people [link to statistic] in the UK are now using food banks to stave off hunger and can’t heat their homes.
Police crackdowns of this kind must cease before more women lose their lives. Massive arrests in Birmingham, Cardiff, Coventry and Luton [links] to name just a few, are spreading fear among sex workers and forcing women more underground.
The government should bite the bullet and put an end to the police policy of arrests and criminalisation. Serious consideration must be given to the decriminalisation of prostitution as has been introduced in New Zealand where evidence shows that women are more able to report violence, attacks are cleared up more quickly and women find it easier to leave prostitution as convictions are cleared from their records.[i]