Some home truths about trafficking
Research undertaken by Eaves on London’s sex industry – and the experiences of the women who can be trafficked into forced prostitution – is chilling. Some women valued at £15 a go, and recognition from male purchasers that the prices are so low they may be buying sex with slaves:
She was frightened and nervous. She told me she had been tricked. I had sex with her and she seemed fine with the sex. She asked me to help her, but I said there was little I could do. She might have been lying to me.
Indicators of sex trafficking were found in every London borough – with women from over 75 different ethnicities available. But a policy response doesn’t just require law enforcement and a massive investment in support services – although these are key – it also needs recognition that restrictive and complex immigration rules can enable the existence of forced labour.
The extreme imbalances of power these regulations create can facilitate abuse. For example, where undocumented workers have no means to regularise their status, and have no access to employment rights, they don’t report mistreatment. Where workers who leave their employers face destitution and deportation, they tolerate exploitative practice. In this context it is not hard for unscrupulous agents to become involved in finding ‘work’ for migrants, for people to believe there is no way out and for trafficking to flourish.