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.