Lea Kna, from Cambodia, was sold at the age of 6 by her parents who lived in poverty. The buyer, a family friend, transported her across the border into Thailand where she was re-sold to a brothel and forced into child prostitution.
Anna, 15, arrived in Heathrow airport thinking she would be spending her summer holiday babysitting in London to earn some extra pocket money. The man who met her took her to a coffee shop in the airport where he sold her to a brothel owner for £3000. Forced into prostitution, Anna was told that if she tried to escape, her family back home in Russia would be harmed.
Every year men, women and children are bought and sold. Often criminal gangs will use threats, manipulation and debt bondage to ensure that their victims do not escape. CARE is focusing on the plight of women, children and men trafficked for sexual exploitation in the UK and across the world. Many are kept in appalling conditions and are forced to see dozens of clients a day. Research shows that those who are rescued often share similar symptoms with survivors of torture.
The CARE campaign focuses on three areas: demand, after-care and education.
Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation is currently a high profit, low risk venture for those who trade in people. It has been reported that some drug trafficking gangs have switched to people trafficking as there is more money to be made and less risk of being caught. The number of British people buying sexual services has more than doubled in a recent ten year period, fuelling demand for prostitution. There is a ready made market for pimps, gangs and traffickers to exploit and make high levels of profit.
The Policing and Crime Act 2009 recently changed the law on the demand aspect of this issue. As of April 2010 it will be illegal to pay for sex with someone who is ‘subject to force’. It is vital that the root causes of exploitation are addressed, otherwise significant reduction in sex trafficking and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation will not be realised.
CARE is campaigning for the demand for sex trafficking and prostitution to be sufficiently tackled, therefore bringing a reduction in the number of people recruited and exploited in this way. For more information download CARE’s paper on tackling the demand for prostitution and sex trafficking.
It is vital that adequate care and protection is given to people who have been exploited. They are often extremely traumatised and need medical and psychological assistance as well as support for re-integration into society.
Although removed from the exploitative situation, trafficked individuals are often still very vulnerable to being found and re-sold by their traffickers. It is therefore vital that they are looked after in a safe environment.
Due to the intimidation that individuals face from their traffickers and pimps, they can often be hesitant to share their stories with the police and immigration staff. Unfortunately this can lead to cases of trafficked people ending up in UK detention centres and being exported back to source countries where they may face violence and re-trafficking. CARE is a signatory to the Asylum Aid Charter The Rights of Women Seeking Asylum www.asylumaid.org.uk/charter
NGOs across Europe are working hard to make help and assistance more easily accessible to people who have been trafficked. CARE’s office in Brussels has been working with Stop the Traffik and Oasis Trust in promoting an EU Written Declaration calling for a single European helpline number on trafficking as well as provision in the EU budget for this to be serviced by suitable NGOs.
The UK has signed and ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. The Convention came into force on 1st April 2009. CARE was among several NGOs who campaigned for the UK Government to sign the Convention.
The Convention gives provision for the care and protection of people who have been trafficked, including a reflection period where an individual will receive safe housing, medical care and assistance. The UK Government has committed to providing a 45 day recovery period which is to be commended. However, due to the health and trauma consequences of trafficking, a minimum of 90 days is preferable.
Find out more about the Council of Europe Convention.
CARE works in partnership with Beyond the Streets which exists to unite, equip and empower groups working with people involved in prostitution to offer freedom and change. Beyond the Streets has over 50 affiliated projects who work with around 4,000 people caught up in prostitution throughout the UK.
In order to reduce trafficking in the UK it is vital that people are aware that it is happening and know how to spot the signs. Police, BIA staff, social workers, teachers and health care staff may come onto contact with people who are being exploited. However, it is not just members of the above professions who may come into contact with trafficking situations. People are trafficked into towns and cities all over the UK. There may be trafficked people being held on your street. To learn about how to spot signs of trafficking in your area click here.
If you suspect a case of trafficking, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
CARE recognises that it is especially important to educate people on the dangers of trafficking, especially in countries of origin. CARE has been working with partners in countries of origin – training local people to do preventative work in their own communities. There is also a need to educate children in the UK of the dangers of being groomed for prostitution and trafficked internally by criminal gangs.
There is also a need to educate those who buy, or may buy, sexual services of the reality of the sex trade.