Talking Trafficking on the Sunday Politics

Labour Party

On Sunday I was invited on to the BBC Politics Show. It was a pleasure as always to be on the programme. The BBC deserve credit for inviting me and the other guests to discuss sex trafficking – a topic which I feel very strongly about. I was joined by Andrew Boff, a Conservative sitting on the London Assembly, who has produced a new report on the subject.

It was a lively discussion, and Andrew had some interesting points. I have to say I disagreed with him on certain things. Given that 96% of sex trafficking victims are female, I make no bones about the fact that I think women more than men tend to be the victims of modern slavery. I have also seen, in my capacity as an MEP, the global dimension of this problem. Just last month in Ilford a police raid on a brothel revealed Asian women transported to the UK illegally, who were being paid just £5 for sexual services. I see trafficking as a primarily international issue, requiring closer cooperation across EU Member States and beyond.

Having said this I was fascinated by Andrew’s report, and am delighted that politicians across the spectrum are fighting to end modern slavery. All sorts of people can end up being trafficked – men and women, adults and children, people transported within national borders as well as across them.

There is still too little funding and not enough publicity for trafficking. It is therefore vital that politicians work together on the issue.

I’ve uploaded some clips from the show here for you to watch:

Coalition government in trouble following local election results

Labour Party

The headlines speak for themselves, ‘Labour on course to gain more than 700 council seats’ says the BBC, and further indications that it’s beginning to fall apart for the coalition with headlines and results such as ‘the Lib Dems have lost more than 125 seats’ and ‘the Conservatives have lost control of some 11 town Halls’.

Meanwhile, Labour had a significant gain in Harlow and Southampton, among other councils, where Labour won control. Well done to all of them!

Yes- the turnout was low but nevertheless the electorate is sending a clear message to the coalition government. And it was a particularly bad night for Cameron and Clegg, in fact the Lib Dem President Tim Farron was moved to apologise on this morning’s Today programme to Lib Dem councillors who lost their seats in the local election.

But will this apology be enough? Their members will undoubtedly feel aggrieved about the results and questions will arise about what the grass root members will do about it and the action they may seek to take.

For the first time the Lib Dems are experiencing the mid-term blues, which many of us know is a difficult position to be in.  It’s often far more difficult than standing and shouting form the side-lines as the Lib Dems have had the relative luxury to do in the past.

While these results give an indication of the mood of the nation, and hopefully will serve to send a message back to the coalition government, the London mayoral elections are not nearly as easy to judge in the same way.

We will get the result later today. We will also get the result of the London Assembly where it looks hopeful that Labour will make significant gains.

Trafficked Victims not Being Found – Report Finds

Labour Party

The Met Police have been accused of a heavy handed approach to brothel raids and for failing to find trafficked victims, in a report, Silence on Violence, published by a London Assembly member.

The report was also published in the Guardian which you can read here.

The report criticises the police for failing to find less than 1% of victims despite an injection of £500,000 to help the predicted rise in trafficking in the run up to the Olympics. The Met has subsequently admitted that they have failed to find a rise in trafficking.

Reports like these are extremely important to assists our understanding of this most hideous crime, however it is always important to remember that human trafficking is one of the most hidden crimes and the most difficult to prosecute.

Over the years I have read numerous reports which suggest the problem of prosecuting is not that it is an unusual crime but that the victims are too often afraid to come forward for fear of repercussions.

When the perpetrators are found, to the frustration of prosecutors they are often prosecuted with different crimes than that of trafficking because the victims won’t give evidence. Besides its not straight forward, the type of crime this is means that many other crimes are bound up within it drugs, violence, etc.

The report criticises Both local police officers and the Met’s specialist SCD9 unit, which focuses on human exploitation and organised crime for failing to adopt an intelligence-based approach to trafficking and for looking in the wrong place to find victims.

One of the most significant concerns and this is something which I have been told elsewhere is the particular concern of girls and women trafficked from West Africa, thought to be the largest group of victims.  The police or the specialist units failed, the report claims, to find them. They are rarely found in brothels and are more likely to be exploited in closed communities.

The report revealed that The Poppy Project, which works with victims of trafficking, had told them that women from West Africa are the largest group they work with. Of 197 Nigerian women they have worked with since 2003 just nine were referred to them by the police.

This is a subject close to my heart, and I am concerned that we are not yet in a situation where we are even hitting the tip of the iceberg despite resources and specialist units being deployed.

Charities such as the Poppy Project do the very best work they can with limited resource, but they are only able to act when victims are brought to them.

The Police must work with other agencies to develop greater intelligence in this area to really tackle the closed world of trafficking and exploitation, and help these victims.



Boris Johnson

Third day in a row on Boris’ bad behaviour.

Just received the bi-monthly report from my good friend John Biggs, London Assembly Member for City and East. In it he reports more bad behaviour from Boris Johnson:

“Another Boris Moment (or two)

There have been no big problems with Mayoral Advisers, for a change, since my last report. There are however a couple of contentious matters to report. 

First, the problem the Mayor caused at the Police Authority, over the Damian Green affair. The media frenzy has passed and a report has been issued. Labour members do not want a repeat of events when Ken was Mayor, when he was suspended by the Standards Board (until this was overturned in the courts) but we do want Mayor Boris to acknowledge the foolishness of divulging confidential briefings and opining on sensitive policing matters when he is Chair of the Police Authority. The report, which needs to be considered by the Standards Committee, does conclude that his behaviour was “extraordinary and unwise” and risked being “perceived as furthering private interests”. The evidence also reveals conversations took place between him and David Cameron before he issued his statements. The affair has highlighted his political clumsiness and questions his judgement.

John Biggs said: “As a footnote to this, bizarrely, I spent about a month over Christmas rebutting a rather thuggish threat by him to sue me over comments I made on television about the matter. I see this as a signal that he will use the Civil Courts – that refuge for rich men the world over, some of whom later prove to be scoundrels – to attack his opponents when it suits him.

Good on John for standing up to this attempt to bully him into silence, and shame on Boris for trying to squash democratic debate and accountability.