UK: Startling new report on trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s health published, urgent call for protection of trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Amnesty International UK

Severe health consequences include injuries, chronic pain, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder; Evidence of the abuses suffered by trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights both before Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are trafficked and during trafficking.

“[I am] scared for no reason. I think that someone is behind my door, window. Someone will find me, pick me up, beat me and kill me. I have run off and they are looking for me. My mood changes all the time. I cannot control my mind.” - Lithuanian woman trafficked to London

“The strongest feeling is that of wanting to die. I feel tired of fighting and I feel alone.” - Romanian woman trafficked to Italy

A new report published 28 June by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and a consortium of 7 non-governmental organizations provides disturbing figures and detail about the damage done to the health of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls who are trafficked and forced into prostitution or domestic work. It also contains information that shows that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are trafficked have often been physically or sexually abused at home, before being trafficked, and suggests that many trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are single mothers.

The report concludes with an urgent call on governments, including the UK, to provide victims of trafficking with the specialist healthcare they need as part of a minimum 90 day ‘reflection period’ or breathing space for Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights when they are removed from the trafficking situation (1).

“Stolen Smiles: The physical and psychological health consequences of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and adolescents trafficked in Europe” provides some of the first ever comprehensive data on the health of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls who have been trafficked and forced into prostitution or domestic work. It is a three year study, including interviews with more than 200 Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls from 14 countries.

Key findings of the report are:

* physical health damage: nearly three in five Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (57%) report suffering more than 12 different physical symptoms when they enter care, including headaches, dizzy spells, back pain, stomach/abdominal pain, fatigue and memory problems. Nearly 7 in 10 still have headaches after more than 90 days in care.

* mental health damage: 56% of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights report symptom levels suggestive of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) on entering care. Trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s anxiety, depression and hostility levels are extremely high – within the top 10th percentile of the norm for the whole female population. 38% report suicidal thoughts, and 95% report feeling depressed.

* sexual and reproductive health: over 60% of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights report pelvic pain, vaginal discharge and gynaecological infections on entering care. Most Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights report that they were sometimes made to have sex without a condom. 17% report having at least one abortion during the trafficking. Many expressed concern about their fertility and future ability to have Children's rights.

* violence during trafficking: physical or sexual violence while in the trafficking situation was reported by nearly all Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights (95%). Respondents described violence such as being kicked, burned with cigarettes, punched in the face, choked with wire, and having a gun held to their head. Power over Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights was asserted through violence and maintained by imposing unpredictable, unsafe and extremely restrictive environments. 77% of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights report ‘never’ having freedom to do as they wished or go where they wanted.

* Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights the traffickers target: 60% of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights reported physical and/or sexual abuse before they were trafficked. This compares with some of the highest national prevalence levels in the world. Almost one in five said they had been ‘recruited’ by someone known to a family member. Most Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are single (71%). 39% have Children's rights; more than four in five of these (82%) are single mothers. This suggests that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are abused or single parenting may be particularly vulnerable to recruitment by traffickers.

Although it is difficult to obtain reliable statistics it is widely acknowledged that thousands of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are trafficked and forced into prostitution to and within the EU. It is also known that these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights experience a whole series of human rights violations: kidnapping, beatings, rape, being kept prisoner. The damage to their health is profound and enduring yet no assessment has to date been made of their health needs.

“Stolen Smiles” is published as the debate about how the law and the authorities can tackle traffickers and protect their victims in the UK continues. Although there has been concerted and well resourced police action to tackle trafficking over the past few months, in particular through Operation Pentameter, victims of this crime are still not automatically entitled to any protection in the UK. There is very limited and irregular assistance available to them. In the eyes of the law they are most often simply considered illegal immigrants and there have been cases of trafficking victims, only recently escaped from the kind of trauma described above, being held in immigration detention centres and being deported back to their home countries without assessment of risk.

Report author and LSHTM Research Fellow Cathy Zimmerman said:

“This research shows that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who have been trafficked into sex work emerge with very severe pain and injuries, and they show psychological health problems that appear to be similar to those documented among victims of torture. Yet, with appropriate services, our findings suggest that for many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, their health does improve.

“Our conclusion is that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are trafficked should be offered adequate and appropriate health care immediately upon release from a trafficking situation. They should be accorded a 90-day reflection period during which time they should receive the support they need to begin recovering from their injuries, pain and trauma and to make well-considered decisions about their future. We also believe that with this time and assistance, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights will be able to provide more reliable evidence about the crimes committed against them.

“I hope this information will be used by policy makers and will contribute to improved practice and more resources for the many Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who require assistance in rebuilding their health and their lives.”

Psychologist Maria Tchomarova, from Animus Association Foundation/La Strada Bulgaria, one of the study partners, said:

“Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are trafficked are treated like captives who must fight for their survival by obeying their captors and submitting to violence and exploitation. Some of the Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights we assist in our centre are destroyed by this experience, while others are able to find an inner strength and independence.”

The Campaigns Director of Amnesty International UK, which is supporting the publication of this report, Tim Hancock said:

“The continuing lack of automatic protection for victims of trafficking in the UK is shocking and unacceptable. This report gives us clear and hard facts about what trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights actually experience and need. The government must act on this information and grant protection to victims immediately. It should sign the European Convention Against Trafficking immediately and commit the UK to providing a very minimum level of support and care.”

Key recommendations of the report include that the UK government:

* approve legislation that provides healthcare for all trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights, regardless of their legal status;

* require police and immigration personnel to ensure that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights suspected of being trafficked are asked about their health concerns at the first point of contact;

* implement a recovery and reflection period of at least 90 days.

There was a panel discussion to mark the launch of new report “Stolen Smiles” in Parliament on Wednesday 28 June. The panel included experts, MPs and a police officer.

Full statistics with graphic illustrations are available from the report.

Read a copy of the "Stolen Smiles" report

Find out more about our Stop Violence Against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights Campaign /p>

Notes:

1. A ‘reflection period’, such as the minimum 30-day one provided for in the European Convention Against Trafficking, is a period of time when victims of trafficking can receive some initial emergency housing and specialist care, without being obliged to assist the police or to return to their home countries. Countries which already operate a reflection period, such as Italy, have found that it can help Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights gain security and confidence to help the criminal justice authorities in their pursuit of traffickers.

2. The report was funded with support from the European Commission’s Daphne Programme, and with additional support from the International Organisation for Migration and the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

3. Study partners for the report are: The Poppy Project, London, UK, +44 20 7840 7147; Associazione On The Road, Italy, +39 0861 796 666; La Strada, Bulgaria, +359 2987 3108; La Strada, Czech Republic, +420 222 721 810; Pag-Asa, Belgium, +21 2511 6464; International Organisation for Migration, Ukraine, +380 44 245 7680

4. Amnesty International UK endorses the findings of the report, which support its call on the UK Government to better protect trafficking victims. Amnesty is organizing a special panel discussion event in Parliament on Wed 28 June where the report author, MPs and a member of the Government will discuss the report’s findings.

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