CWO Forum - Human Trafficking and the Olympics

Report from the forum

The CWO Forum Panel on 'Will the Legacy of the Olympics be victims of Human Trafficking?' took place in Committee Room W1 in the House of Commons on Tuesday 21st June.

The speakers for the evening were Anthony Steen, Founder of the Human Trafficking Foundation (who also chaired the panel), Kit Malthouse AM (Deputy Mayor for London with responsibility for the Metropolitan Police), Margot James MP (Vice Chairman, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking) and Johnny Hollins (Educator).

CWO Chairman, Niki Molnar, welcomed everyone on behalf of the CWO and explained to those attending that the Forums were established to give women the opportunity to debate topical subjects and challenging issues that affect women and their families every day.

Facts from the Forum
2,600 women have been trafficked into the UK
2,900 women are vulnerable and likely to be trafficked
2,500 known brothels
85% of street prostitutes are British
85% of hidden prostitutes (ads, cards, telephone only) are foreign and likely to have been trafficked
Human Trafficking Hotline gets between 8 and 15 reports of trafficked women a day – all are looked at and assessed for risk
1 in 10 UK men will admit that they are willing to pay for sex

Antony Steen introduced the topic in his capacity as founder of the Human Trafficking Foundation and his former role as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the trafficking of women and children. He spoke of the difficulty in detecting trafficking and the inaccuracy of current statistics, saying that modern human trafficking is unseen and so made more difficult to defeat. Anthony drew on his experiences talking to many victims of trafficking and highlighted recent examples such as kitchen staff forced to live in their place of work and women being forced into domestic slavery. He provided the example of a fourteen year-old girl from Moldova who could be ordered online as a sexual commodity on the internet and was forced into prostitution as a young teenager. He pointed out that are over 2500 known brothels in London alone. Anthony spoke of the difficulties in curbing demand in Britain and spoke of the role of the Human Trafficking Foundation in helping trafficking victims. October 18th has now become Anti-Slavery Day and he suggested that the CWO organise an event to coincide with this date as a follow-up to the forum.

Kit Malthouse spoke on the Metropolitan Police’s role in combating human trafficking and the policy framework. In London violence towards women and girls is 50% higher than the rest of the UK. He said the police were tackling five main areas: domestic violence; rape and sexual assault; forced marriages; child prostitution and domestic servitude. Kit spoke of the successful campaign he ran as a Councillor in Westminster to ban the placement of prostitute cards in public places. The Met Police needed further resources to fight trafficking but a Human Trafficking and Exploitation Unit had already been set up. With the London Olympics only one year away focus was on the Games and any trafficking implications. The Human Trafficking 2012 Network has been set up to bring together the Ministry of Justice, the Metropolitan Police and City Hall to coordinate their work and to share information and resources. Kit ended by highlighting the need to suppress demand for prostitution and trafficking and to cut off supply to the market. An example was getting telephone and mobile phone operators to bar numbers which were used on prostitute cards to prevent repeat business; another was to bring pressure on newspapers that still accepted sex adverts e.g. Loot and Archant (whose sex advertising is worth £1.5m to them every year). Editors are sent letters that they are aiding and abetting prostitution but these are ignored.

Johnny Hollins spoke of his experiences of trafficking in Africa and his background as a neuroscientist examining victim psychology. He said there was a lack of awareness of the scale of the problem and that being such an emotive and traumatic subject it was difficult for people to engage with. He pointed out that if you believe in the concept of the ‘six degrees of separation’ then we are all connected to a victim of trafficking. He spoke of his work in South Africa with Bishop Joseph Kobo, the nephew of Nelson Mandel. In 2009 Johnny initiated an international symposium on people trafficking in Pretoria which brought together 160 NGOs, government agencies and activists. As a result of this the South African Government adopted the Anti-Trafficking Bill as an Act in advance of the 2010 World Cup. He pointed out that the statistics for human trafficking were unreliable. For example, in South Africa, current data reports that only sixty-five people were trafficked whereas anecdotal research suggests the real figure is significantly higher. Human trafficking is happening every day and action needs to be taken now to prevent it. His current doctoral research into shock showed how trauma was causing brain damage in children who were victims of trafficking.

Margot James MP spoke of the Government’s work to prevent human trafficking and explained how the UK was working closely with other countries particularly in the EU. She praised the work of the police force in identifying and catching perpetrators of human trafficking and said that the government was committed to helping the police to catch criminals. She cited the Salvation Army and Poppy Project as good examples of an initiative providing support to victims of trafficking.

Questions and comments from the floor explored the problem of people trafficked from the EU who could not be returned home, the importance of working with other governments to combating human trafficking and the role of voluntary organisations who aided victims. The behaviour of celebrities, such as football players, to normalise the use of prostitution, may encourage men to use trafficked victims without knowing it.

Niki thanked the speakers and Anthony Steen for chairing the panel. She confirmed that the CWO would continue working on eradicating Human Trafficking and would be working with the Home Office, City Hall, NGOs and the media. Niki expressed surprise at hearing that the media considered trafficking a non-story, when at least 3,000 women were kept against their will in a foreign country and raped multiple times, every day.

With thanks to Theodora Clarke and Sophie Stratton.

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