Ex-Totnes MP seeks London brothels list in Anti-Slavery Day crackdown
A former south Devon MP has asked the Metropolitan Police to hand over the addresses of all known brothels in London, in a bid to help “lift the lid” on human trafficking.
Anthony Steen, former Conservative MP for Totnes and chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, has submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the Met to reveal the location of all 2,103 brothels in the capital, identified in a 2010 report from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
He has also requested details of when they were last raided.
According to the ACPO report, ‘Setting the record: The trafficking of migrant women in the England & Wales off-street prostitution sector’, of the 17,000 migrant women involved in prostitution in the off-street sector, 2,600 are trafficked.
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“These are highly vulnerable people,” the report states. “Although most are not subject to violence themselves, many are debt-bonded and strictly controlled through threats of violence to family members.”
The announcement from Mr Steen about his FOI request comes on Anti-Slavery Day, held each year on October 18 to raise awareness of modern day slavery – that is, child trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
The day was created by an Act of Parliament following the passage of the Anti-Slavery Day Bill, introduced by Mr Steen as a Private Members’ Bill, in 2010.
Mr Steen hopes his FOI request will draw attention to the 800,000 “modern day slaves” – women, children and men – trafficked every year, according to figures from the United Nations.
Speaking to This is Croydon Mr Steen, who represented south Devon in parliament between 1983 and 2010, said: “The difference between slavery in the 1830s and slavery today is the salves could be seen everywhere. They were in the fields, in the streets.
“Today it’s now illegal, it has been abolished by an act of parliament, but it is ten times the size of what it was. And it’s underground.
“You would have thought that everyone involved in running a democratic and properly organised country would want to make it less hidden.
“Police won’t talk about it because they probably don’t think it’s a priority, social workers won’t disclose their victims because of confidentiality, lawyers can’t tell you who they are working with - so all the professionals who could be helping lift the lid are helping keep it hidden.”
Asked what he hoped the FOI request would achieve, Mr Steen said: “It will start focusing and putting a search light on freeing slaves. If you don’t know where they are and the police aren’t going to tell you, how can you free slaves?
“I expect they won’t give me the information, and it’ll be a scandal because the very thing we said was unlawful is happening here in London.
“I’m sure I’ve got the House of Commons on my side. That’s why I can do these things. I’m much more useful outside than inside.”
Mr Steen noted: “The public may not want to know where they [the brothels] all are. They may say ‘it will affect the value of my house’ or ‘I don’t want my husband to know where they are’.
“But the majority will be saying ‘we want to know where they are and we want to get them rescued’.”
Asked whether he would continue his fight if his FOI request was rejected, he said: “There’s no question of it. It’s an indictment on our society.
“We all say how terrible it is that modern day slaves are in our midst, and we do nothing. They’re crocodile tears.”
The Metropolitan Police declined to comment when asked about Mr Steen’s FOI request.
Human trafficking: The facts
- Figures from the United Nations indicate 800,000 people – women, children and men – are trafficked every year.
- Today the Government announced that, according to their estimates, the number of people being trafficked into the UK is rising. Last year the authorities learned of 946 victims, compared with 710 in 2010.
- Campaigners warn the figure could be far greater, as many victims are unwilling to go to the police for fear of being sent back to where they came from.
- According to figures from Eurostat, 76 per cent of those trafficked into the EU are done so for sexual exploitation.
- 70 per cent of victims are women. 17 per cent are men, 11 per cent girls and two per cent boys.
- Many victims are recruited by acquaintances, relatives or criminal groups, often with the promise of well-paid jobs when they reach their destination.
- Victims are often controlled through the threat of force, deception and debt bondage.
- Human trafficking is the second-biggest source of illicit profits for criminals after the drugs trade.
- Traffickers make $32 billion in profits annually .
Anti-Slavery Day: What it’s all about
- The day was created by an Act of Parliament following the passage of the Anti-Slavery Day Bill. The Bill was introduced by then-Totnes MP Anthony Steen as a Private Members’ Bill in 2010.
- It passed through both Houses, unopposed although amended.
- The bill defines modern-day slavery as child trafficking, forced labour, domestic servitude and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
- Anti-Slavery Day falls on October 18 each year. It provides an opportunity to draw attention to the subject, and to pressurise Government, local authorities, public institutions and private and public companies to address the scale and scope of human trafficking.
- Cities nationwide are hosting events to commemorate Anti-Slavery Day. In Croydon, a concert charting the life of a human trafficking victim is to be held tonight at Matthews Yard.
Organised by Croydon Community Against Trafficking, ‘Just Enough for the Real World’ is described by actress and human trafficking campaigner Emma Thompson as “Joyful and timely, it reminds us what artists can do when they’re in the right place at the right time”.
To find out more, visit www.antislaveryday.com.