Sex trafficking victims rescued by police may face deportation
Home secretary rules out guarantee of immunity
Nationwide crackdown on 'modern form of slavery'
Alan Travis, home affairs editor
Thursday October 4, 2007
Some victims of sex traffickers rescued from prostitution in a new national police crackdown will face deportation, the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, said yesterday. Ms Smith described sex trafficking as a “modern-day form of slavery” but said she could not give an across-the-board guarantee that those rescued would not face deportation as illegal migrants.
The police said yesterday that three women had been rescued since Monday as a result of Operation Pentameter 2, involving for the first time all police forces across Britain and Ireland.
Tim Brain, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the public should not assume that trafficked women forced to work in brothels were confined to big cities. Mr Brain, chief constable of Gloucestershire, said that a large proportion of the estimated 4,000 trafficked women and men forced into prostitution worked in residential houses and flats in towns and even villages across Britain.
Detectives think that as many as 100 brothels are operating in Cambridgeshire alone. The county's police say sex traffickers are luring women into the UK from eastern Europe, Africa and the far east with the promise of lucrative jobs. Pentameter 2 is the second enforcement operation to focus on trafficking. Last year, the first crackdown ended in 88 trafficked women from 22 countries being rescued and led to 232 arrests, with 134 people charged. It also led to the creation of the Human Trafficking Centre in Sheffield.
Ms Smith said human trafficking was a devastating crime: “Two hundred years after we banned the trade in slavery, it's shocking that this is still going on.”
Pentameter 2 will focus on providing protection for victims who have been kidnapped, falsely imprisoned and raped and identifying the scale and nature of human trafficking in Britain.
Ms Smith said that as part of Britain's programme of implementing the European convention against human trafficking, the operation would include a pilot scheme to formally identify victims as well as a 30-day “reflection period” before removal action against illegal entrants.
She said she wanted to protect and support victims, but a blanket guarantee that none would face deportation “would be likely to act more generally as a pull factor.” She hoped asylum case workers would bear in mind their exploitation when deciding their futures.
But Aiden McQuade, of Anti-Slavery International, said at the London launch of Pentameter 2 that most people trafficked into Britain had been left with illegal immigration status by the traffickers as a means of control: “It is too often apparent that irregular status should be regarded as an indicator of forced labour rather than taken as face value.”
The crackdown is to be accompanied by an advertising campaign by the Poppy project offering help to trafficked women. Denise Marshall, Poppy chief executive, said it had received 100,000 in government funding to cope with the increased referrals generated by Pentameter 2. It will provide beds and extra support for women's refuges in and outside London.