Trafficked people in the UK


Universe Column for October 27th  2002

By David Alton

During the recent debates on the Nationality and Immigration Bill I once again pressed the Government to legislate urgently against human trafficking.

On the day of the parliamentary debate I addressed the Inter-schools Human Rights Conference in north London. Organised by young people from Haringey and Tottenham it was attended by about 150 children. They were in no doubt that our highest priority should be to outlaw human trafficking and they committed themselvs to campaign until the Government does so.

Over the last year I have initated debates, held meetings at the Home Office and during the Proceeds of Crime Bill I moved an amendment calling for a fund to be established, like that which we use to confiscate assets from drug dealers, to confiscate the assets of people involved in human trafficking. The confiscated assets could then be used to help the victims. Although the Government did not accept the amendment, they have responded constructively and I am hopeful that in the forthcoming Queens Speech there will be proper legislation to tackle this evil.

The UN’s drug control and crime prevention agency in Vienna, says human trafficking has become the fastest growing facet of organised crime. It is extraordinarily lucrative. Powerful criminal organisations are estimated to earn about £4.3 billion a year from economic and sexual slavery. The trafficking of people is considered to be the third largest source of profits for organised crime after the trafficking of drugs and firearms.

The need for urgent action is underlined by the story of a  young Romanian girl, Natasha, aged 18, who wound up  in London penniless and confused, and which came to light last week. Natasha was sexually abused and terrified for her life. The victim of human traffickers, and of one particularly brutal man, called Alex, Natasha found herself imprisoned in a house in north London and threatened with enforced prostitution.

Natasha is on record as saying “I know he will follow me and hunt me down…He is angry with me and has threatened my friends and my parents back in Romania. He says the Russians” who are also involved in the underworld business of this trafficking, “will kill me”.

Girls like Natasha generate a small fortune for the men who own them and sell them.

In a highly lucrative business they are  traded at between £5,000 and £10,000 each  and they  make their pimps up to £100,000 a year. That  is not is Bangkok or Moscow but  our own capital city of London.

“You don’t have to go very far upmarket from that to realise why this is such big business”, says Chief Superintendent Simon Humphrey, head of Scotland Yard’s vice squad. ‘In Soho, where there are about 70 brothels, each woman will generate more than double that figure'”.

Chief Superintendent Humphrey adds:

“If we don’t get our politicians to act,  it’s going to radically alter our whole society and continue to wreck lives”.

Natasha’s case is the tip of an iceberg. The head of the Vice Squad and the children of North London se to understand the need for urgent action. In the Queens Speech on November 13th we will learn whether the Government share their sense of ugency.