Campaigners protest against raids on sex workers in Soho

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Campaigners protest against raids on sex workers in Soho

Campaigners supporting sex workers held a rally outside the Home Office to protest against raids in Soho.

They say that between April and September at least 50 premises have been closed, forcing sex workers onto the streets. 

Laura Watson, from the English Collective of Prostitutes said:

"Yet again anti-trafficking policies are being used as a justification for raids and deportations against immigrant sex workers. Some women working in the area have suffered violent attacks and robberies in recent months but the police did nothing. Instead police resources are being squandered on raiding women working together in the relative safety of flats. We are living in very harsh times with more women, particularly mothers, having to sell sex to ensure their children are fed.  Why isn’t the government taking action to rein in the police, stop the raids and arrests, prioritise women’s safety and repeal benefit sanctions and other cuts which have left women destitute?”

 Regarding the raids which took place on the 20th of October, a spokesperson from The Metropolitan Police said:

"Operation Lanhydrock was specifically aimed at targeting areas of criminality such as sexual exploitation, modern slavery, fraud and money laundering - and to identify, safeguard and remove any victims of human trafficking and other related offences.  It was an intelligence-led, multi-agency operation, that was instigated specifically in response to individual concerns/complaints raised by sex workers themselves, both directly to the Safer Neighbourhoods Team,  and via charities that are long established working in the industry sector, which then reported these on to police. 

Concerns raised by the specific charity included the attitude of management at the premises targeted to individual women working within them - as well as the perceived vulnerability of the women and or girls themselves. Other sex workers in the local area had told police they were concerned that the women working out of some of the massage parlours in Soho/West End might be trafficked, as their behaviour and work patterns appeared inconsistent with their experience of voluntary sex workers who had not been coerced into the industry.

A specialist anti-trafficking reception centre was set up on the evening of Thursday 20 October, staffed by police officers from the Met's dedicated trafficking and modern slavery teams. Ten women were referred to the centre that night having been identified as potential victims of trafficking. 

As a result of the warrants executed at the six commercial properties targeted - that were believed to be running as brothels and suspected of possibly utilising trafficked woman under the guise of massage parlours and 'medical' services - there were 24 arrests in total. Seventeen individuals were detained by UKBA agency workers and referred onto that organisation for subsequent processing.

Of the seven individuals arrested and subsequently dealt with by the Met, none were sex workers. All the individuals were working at manager/staff level and are now being investigated on suspicion of being involved in the offence of controlling prostitution for gain. Six have been bailed until a date in January 2017 as officers being what is likely to be be a lengthy, complex investigation. The remaining arrestee, a 37-year-woman from south London, was given a caution for fraud."

 

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