News/UK: 'Most prostitutes are illegal immigrants'

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Subject: News/UK: 'Most prostitutes are illegal immigrants'
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Wed Dec 01 1999 - 20:37:35 EST


'Most prostitutes are illegal immigrants'
Refugees with false papers swamping the sex trade in inner cities, say police
By David Bamber
Sunday Telegraph (London), November 28, 1999

Six out of 10 prostitutes operating in Britain's inner cities are illegal
immigrants, according to reports being studied by the Home Office.

A dramatic rise in the number of immigrants working as prostitutes in
central London was discovered in a survey of sex establishments carried out
by the Metropolitan Police.

The situation is similar in southern coastal resorts and northern cities
such as Manchester and Birmingham.

The number could be higher, say the police, because of the difficulty of
establishing whether the women are in the country legally.

Many of the prostitutes come from the Balkan countries and have fled from
war and economic hardship. Others have come from South America, via
Portugal, and carry false European Union documents.

Ministers are so concerned about the problem that the Government's sex
offences review, set up by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, has held a
special seminar.

Helen Self, an expert researching prostitution who gave evidence at the
seminar, said yesterday: "The majority of women who come to the UK to work
in the sex industry come through immigration controls accompanied by
English-speaking men and carrying false documents."

Their passports are then removed and they are kept virtual prisoners. "The
cost of travel and other so-called 'services' become part of a debt that
the women are persuaded they will be able to pay off within three months,
but rent and other charges are added to their bill so that it rises."

A team of officers, led by Supt Paul Holmes, investigated 75 brothels in
Soho, central London, for the report. They found that they had a combined
turnover of pounds 1 million a month, with each woman earning pounds 350 a
day on average.

Last night David Lidington, the Tory shadow Home Office minister, blamed
the Government's policies and chaos in the immigration service for allowing
the problem of foreign prostitutes to get out of control. He said: "Britain
is getting a reputation for being a soft touch for illegal immigrants.

"Jack Straw has lost control of the immigration service. The backlog of
people waiting to be dealt with is more than 90,000 and the situation is
getting worse. This complete lack of control is encouraging people to try
their luck here."

A report published in July by the United Nations estimated that half a
million women and girls are entering western Europe each year to become
prostitutes. Most are from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The Home Office's sex offences review will publish its report on foreign
prostitution in February. It is expected to recommend intensive efforts to
make contact with illegal immigrants working as prostitutes, assuring them
that they will be given help to return to their own countries.

The Home Office is also considering introducing a new criminal offence of
bringing a woman into the country to work as a prostitute, which will carry
a fine and imprisonment.

Melanie Orhant

morhant@igc.org
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