Saturday, October 01, 2005

How much are we really doing to help?

A few days ago we read that a brothel in Birmingham had been raided and a number of victims of human trafficking found working under duress as prostitutes. They had been brought to the UK on the false expectation of legitimate work. They had had their passports stolen, had been forced to remain under the supervisoin of brothel owners 24 hours a day. There was even an electric fence out the back of the building. On top of this of course, they were forced to have sex against their will repeatedly.

Amnesty International commented at the time that "there [is] no protection in law for victims of trafficking, who are usually classed as illegal immigrants and deported. Most are deported without any care or support or assessment of the risks they face if sent back. Communities might not want these women back if they know what has happened to them and there is evidence of people being re-trafficked." The police responded by saying that these women would "be treated as victims".

Todays new shows a slight shift in story. This report says that "six of the women removed from the premises have been handed over to immigration officials". So just shipped straight back to communities where they will likely be unable to reintegrate. There clearly hasn't been time for them to have received proper medical attention since they have been released from the brothel. At best they return to the same situation which led to them being trafficked in the first place. At worst they might well be excluded from their families and communities.

What sort of country do we live in? Surely in the circumstances the women should be given proper medical care, a few weeks/months in safe houses to recover from their extended ordeal with appropriate counselling and rehabilitation, the opportunity to engage in training or education to improve their employment prospects and reduce the risk of repeated trafficking, the right to choose for themselves which country they wish to stay in and support to enable them to do so. Surely we owe these women that much.

Also I would like to see a proper police search for the men who were using the brothel. The sex trade exists because people pay money for it. It is illegal to visit a brothel in the UK. We should seek out people who do and prosecute them in the normal way. This might reduce the number of people who go to these places and in turn make it less financially profitable to run such places. Isn't this obvious?

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