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.


Everywoman Safe Everywhere

Labour Party

Since the Tory cuts began, women have been seen to bear the greatest impact in every area of life. One area of growing concern for me is the negative effect of the cuts on women’s safety. 

The safety of women across the country is increasingly at risk. It is at risk because of reductions in police numbers, as seen in my London constituency, and it is at risk because councils are cutting back on street lights in an effort to save money.

It is also at risk because organisations which support women to leave abusive relationships or jobs in which they are sexually exploited and abused have lost their funding. These are organisations like the Derby Women’s Centre which is currently under threat of closure as a result of cuts to its funding. My colleague Glenis Willmott, MEP for the East Midlands and Labour’s  Leader in Europe, spoke out against the cuts to its funding yesterday.

A number of women’s refuges and other specialist organisations which offer a safe space for women who have been abused are also suffering as a result of the cuts. Such organisations provide crucial support to victims of domestic violence, women who have been trafficked and the homeless. Last year I spoke a lot about the Poppy Project and the cuts to its funding. The Poppy project is an excellent organisation which provides support to survivors of trafficking.

For some of the most vulnerable women, like those who have recently left abusive relationships, access to a crisis loan can be an important resource. This is especially true if a woman has had to leave behind her possessions when escaping her abuser. This type of emergency loan can assist her in starting to rebuild her life.

Recent welfare reform proposals shift the control of such crisis funds to already stretched local authorities with no checks to ensure the funding is spent on providing crisis support.

They also rather ludicrously suggest that councils could provide support in kind rather than money to people who apply for crisis funds. Women who have taken the brave move of leaving abusive partners should not have to suffer the lack of autonomy and indignity associated with receiving food parcels.

A coalition of 20 charities, including Banardo’s and Women’s Aid, has called for the ring-fencing of funds to provide crisis loans in a letter to the Guardian last weekend. You can read the letter here.

In response to the ever increasing impact of Tory cuts on women’s safety, the Labour Party is carrying out a Public Consultation.

The Consultation was opened shortly before the Christmas break but I felt given the hectic holiday period it might be a good idea to revisit it with you now we are in the New Year.

The findings from the Consultation will be used get a clearer picture of the cumulative impact of tory decision making and to develop legislative measures that could be used to make women safer. It will also be used as an opportunity to consult on Labour’s proposals for a new Personal Safety Bill.

The consultation is chaired by Vera Baird QC who will be supported by Kate Green MP (Shadow Minister for Equalities) and Stella Creasy MP (Shadow Minister for Crime Prevention).

If you would like to find out more about the consultation or take part, please visit the Everywoman Safe Everywhere website. Together we can make Britain a safer place for women.

A Devastating Blow to Victims of Human Trafficking

Labour Party

I’m very saddened to discover that the plan to redirect the funding and responsibility for caring for victims of trafficking from the Poppy Project to the Salvation Army has become reality today.

As I detailed in a previous blog, over the past few years the Poppy Project has been doing a fantastic job rehabilitating trafficked women. Victims of trafficking were able to stay in the secure accommodation provided by the charity for usually between three and eight months during which time trafficked women were provided with secure accommodation, therapy, English language skills, legal advice and healthcare. They have also been running helplines and advisory services for victims of trafficking.

The redirecting of funds to the Salvation Army, who are planning to cut the amount of resources spent on each individual, means that the duration which women may spend in rehabilitation will be halved and vital aspects of their current services will be discarded.

I am also deeply uneasy that this extremely important and complex issue is being taken out of the hands of specialised providers and given to an organisation that does not have the same level of expertise or experience. There are also serious concerns that entrusting the care of trafficked women to an avowedly religious organisation could lead to conflicts of interests should these women be of a different religion, require abortion services, or be homosexual.

The Poppy Project argue that this decision is politically motivated as the Poppy Project has successfully appealed 17 UK Border Agency decisions on identification of trafficking victims and forced countless reassessments.

It is clear therefore that despite government promises to the contrary, this decision highlights that they fundamentally fail to understand or care about this issue. Abigail Stepnitz, the national co-ordinator for the Poppy Project Eaves charity, points to letters from officials, which concede that, while the rape experienced by victims is “unfortunate”, it does not qualify them for government help – a shining example of the so-called ‘compassion’ shown by this Tory-led coalition.

Women who have experienced trafficking need specialised rehabilitation given by people who understand what they have been through, not a generic “salvation service”. This is just another example of how this government fails to understand the needs of the most vulnerabe in our society, women in particular. The Poppy Project is determined to try and continue providing their essential service but this now relies on charitable donations. Could I urge all who recognise this for the important issue it is to visit their website and donate what you can.

More Women trafficked into Britain as the Tory-led Coalition axes the Poppy Project

Labour Party

The Tory-led Government recently announced  it is to withdraw funding from the Poppy Project, a charity providing support and accommodation to women who have been trafficked into prostitution or domestic servitude. The Poppy Project has done excellent work over the years and it is one of the biggest and most established organisations of its kind. I have had contact with the Poppy Project on a number of occasions and am full of admiration for the work they have done.

Hard on the heels of the Poppy Project axing, I was further shocked to read an article in The Guardian yesterday about one Moldovan woman’s experience of being trafficked inEurope.

The 18-year-old referred to in the article was found working as a prostitute inLondon. The British immigration officials who reviewed her case deemed her to be in no danger if she returned to Moldova  so she was sent back. Her traffickers then tracked her down and raped and tortured her. The young woman was subsequently sent to Israel and then back to the UK to work again as a prostitute.

The Home Office agreed last week to pay the woman significant damages in recognition of the crass behaviour and errors of judgment made by the British authorities. Small compensation indeed for what she has been through.

Cases like these, where vulnerable women are sent from theUK back to potentially dangerous situations in their home country, are becoming more and more common. Yet, rather than investing more in resources to help victims of trafficking, the Tory-led Government is determined to cut charities with experience in this area.

True, the government has awarded The Salvation Army a contract to provide support to trafficked women supposedly in place of the Poppy Project. However, the loss in expertise involved in this wholly unnecessary and wrong-headed move may well mean that large numbers of trafficked women not identified as such. Trafficking could therefore become ever more of a growth industry.

David Cameron claims that tackling sex trafficking is a priority for the Tory-led coalition. But his actions speak louder than words. As funding is removed from women’s organisations like Poppy Project, I am sure we will see increasing numbers of cases like the one reported yesterday in The Guardian.

Sign my petition

Labour Party

HUMAN TRAFFIC FISTSI have launched a petition for my campaign on the Metropolitan Police proposals to close down its dedicated Human Trafficking unit. 

Human Trafficking is the third biggest international crime after arm and drugs trading. But in the UK we are currently only reaching the tip of the iceberg and there is much work to be done to win the fight against it.

The unit is essential to this fight, and it is internationally recognised as being one of the best of its kind in tackling this crime.

Excellent work is being done by organisations like the Poppy Project who work with women forced into prostitution once they have been trafficked.

However, human trafficking does not just affect female prostitutes but also those forced into domestic servitude and other forms of forced labour. And catching the perpetrators requires the services of specially trained officers.

You can support my campaign to stop the proposal to close the unit from going any further by signing the petition.  The petition will be presented to Sir Paul Stephenson, the Met Police commissioner.