Sex trafficking: Amnesty welcomes Operation Pentameter but calls for protection for trafficking victims

In response to the launch today (21 February) of the new anti-sex trafficking drive Operation Pentameter, Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

“Amnesty welcomes Operation Pentameter and the new commitment to sending traffickers the message that this vicious trade in Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights will not be tolerated.”

“We hope the travel industry will co-operate in cracking down on this terrible crime.”

Amnesty International is however concerned that government policy on combating sex trafficking is still failing to protect the often extremely damaged Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls who are the victims of trafficking.

Although trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation are criminal offences in the UK, the government has failed to develop comprehensive measures to protect and support people who have been trafficked into the country. Signing up to the European Convention Against Trafficking would guarantee such vital protection.

Kate Allen said:

“Operation Pentameter’s awareness-raising measures are a step in the right direction but we also need to see much greater protection of trafficking victims when they are detected.

“Up to now, for example, highly vulnerable trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have been put into immigration detention. Instead, they should be offered immediate support and care with organisations that are experienced in helping Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who have endured physical and psychological violence.

“Currently victims of trafficking have almost no rights in the UK. In the eyes of the law they are simply illegal immigrants and are routinely detained and deported.

“To ensure trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls are properly protected the government should sign the European Convention Against Trafficking – something it could do tomorrow. Signing the anti-trafficking convention would turn the system around so that trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are recognised as the victims and not the perpetrators of crime.”

Home Office research estimated that up to 1,420 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights were trafficked into the UK for sexual exploitation in 2000 (1). Since this study was completed it is widely acknowledged that the problem of human trafficking has increased significantly. Trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls, from countries including Moldova, Romania, Albania, Thailand and Nigeria have been forced to work as prostitutes in London (2). Victims of trafficking are tricked or violently coerced into leaving their homes.

Maria, a Ukrainian woman, left her country to work in Italy to raise money for her daughter’s education. When her visa ran out she met a man in Italy who said that he could arrange work for her in the UK. She entered the UK with him, but once she arrived here she was beaten, raped and forced into prostitution. She was sold three times while in the UK and was made to work in various parts of London.

The European Convention Against Trafficking guarantees trafficked people:

* a breathing period (‘reflection period’) of at least 30 days during which they can receive support to aid their recovery, including safe housing and emergency medical support;

* temporary residence permits for trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country, and/or if it is necessary to assist criminal proceedings.

The Home Office currently funds just one care and accommodation centre for trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights - the London-based Poppy Project. Yet, this can only provide 25 places, and access criteria are narrow and dependent on Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s cooperation with investigations or prosecutions. Demand for spaces greatly exceeds supply. There is still no safe house for Children's rights that have been trafficked.

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