Wales: Sex trafficking – Amnesty International welcomes brothel raids in Wales

Reacting to the news of the South Wales police raids on brothels in Swansea, Cardiff and Bridgend during the night of Thursday 2nd March 2006, Amnesty International Wales Director Eleanor White says:

“Amnesty welcomes the South Wales police crackdown on traffickers and their vicious trade in Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who are held prisoner and forced to work as prostitutes.”

Human trafficking is a serious problem that needs attention. 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 1998. The figure was based solely on reported cases, and trafficking in people is becoming increasing exponentially – it is extremely profitable, with ‘high demand’ and little capital outlay needed at the start. It is now the third biggest black market earner globally, after the trades in drugs and guns. It means that Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls from poor countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa are here in massage parlours and saunas, imprisoned and subject to continuous abuse.
Eleanor White says:

“Trafficking is nothing less than modern day slave trading. It involves transporting people away from the communities they live in by threat or the use of violence, deception or coercion so they can be exploited as forced or enslaved workers. In the process, they are deprived of their most fundamental human rights in the most brutal manner.”

The recent raids on massage parlours in Cardiff, Swansea and Bridgend highlight the reality that these grave human rights abuses are happening here, on our doorstep, in Wales.
These arrests come just weeks after the launch of the new anti-sex trafficking drive, Operation Pentameter on the 21st of February 2006. The initiative sends traffickers the message that this vicious trade in Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights will not be tolerated.

The progress the Government has made in prosecuting traffickers and criminalising all forms of trafficking is welcomed by Amnesty International, but Eleanor White fears that cracking down on the people traders is only one half of the answer.

“We also need to guarantee that victims of trafficking will be protected. We need to know now whether the trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights working in these brothels in Wales were rescued from the properties and if so what help and protection they are now receiving.

“Although trafficking for sexual and labour exploitation are criminal offences in the UK, the government has so far failed to develop comprehensive measures to protect and support people who have been trafficked into the country.

“The fact is that currently these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have no guaranteed protection in the UK. The law sees them simply as illegal immigrants and people here in Wales would be appalled to know that many of them are just deported without any assessment of what risk they may be returned to (and without any prospects of their traffickers being held to account). These Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights are then at serious risk of re-trafficking. Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen says:

“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.”
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 and so for the majority of victims there is still no refuge. There are no safe houses for Children's rights that have been trafficked. In Wales, Eleanor White says:

“Victims of trafficking have had all of their very basic human rights violated – we must turn the system around so that they are recognised as the victims and not the perpetrators of crime. The UK government must sign up to the new European Convention Against Trafficking.”
The European Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings was first agreed by the council of Europe in May 2005 and was the first international law to specifically protect trafficked people’s rights. Signing up to the European Convention Against Trafficking would guarantee victims receive protection. It would ensure that victims are given a breathing period (‘reflection period’) of at least 30 days. During this time during which they can receive support to aid their recovery, including legal aid, emergency safe housing and medical support. This time gives them the opportunity to recover from the trauma and make some decisions about what they need to do next.

The Convention also guarantees that those trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country are granted temporary residence in the UK.
Twenty-five countries, including Germany, Austria, Italy, Portugal and Moldova, have already signed the Convention. Spain, France and the United Kingdom are among those that have not. Evidence shows that the countries that protect victims have also made greater progress in securing convictions of traffickers. In Italy there are 200 shelters for trafficking victims and there have been 3,000 prosecutions involving approximately 8,000 traffickers in a 4-year period.

There is huge public and cross party support in the UK, including Welsh Members of Parliament and Assembly Members, who demand that the victims of trafficking be protected. The arrests here last week are yet further evidence of the need for a shift in the law to support, not blame, the victims of trafficking.

It is worrying that any trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights who were discovered in the raids in Cardiff, Swansea and Bridgend last week will have no right to protection here. If they are from outside the EU in the eyes of the law they are simply illegal immigrants, not victims of crime, and their future is precarious.

Amnesty International believes that the European Convention Against Trafficking provides the best hope of protection for victims in the UK. South Wales police are clearly already involved in investigations and operations to crackdown on traffickers and rescue trafficked Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights. Isn't it time we had protection in law for these Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights?

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