Modern Day Slavery

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2007 National Women's Conference
25 October 2006
Carried as Amended

The plight of many women held against their will and used as sex slaves came to the public’s attention during the World Cup in Germany, however this is only the tip of the iceberg. In Britain there are estimated to be at least 5,000 women who may be working as prostitutes after being trafficked to this country.

On 21 February 2006, the police launched “Operation Pentameter” a United Kingdom wide attack on sex traffickers. This was a short-term initiative that was wound down in June 2006; however due to its effectiveness and the awareness that it helped to raise about the increasing numbers of trafficked women in this country, the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) has now been set up to continue the work. Unfortunately, whilst Operation Pentameter and the new UKHTC both have the stated aim of rescuing women and prosecuting the traffickers, Conference is concerned to note that many of these rescued women have faced immediate deportation or detention in immigration detention centres. Only those women brave enough to be prepared to assist the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the police in their investigations have been granted temporary leave to remain in the United Kingdom (UK), whilst other vulnerable women have faced deportation, more often than not back into the hands of those that trafficked them here in in the first place.

Tim Brain, the Gloucestershire Chief Constable, said trafficking was a global problem with hundreds of women in Britain living in “Modern Day Slavery”. Many of the women are abused, ganged raped, imprisoned in tiny rooms, many work 20 hours daily and are made to have sex with up to 40 men per day. A Home Office report five years ago estimated the number of victims to be 1,400 but Dr. Brain said the current figure could be double that.

Conference congratulates the Refugee Women’s Resource Project at Asylum Aid, which was recently awarded the 2006 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize Group Award, in recognition of its groundbreaking work supporting women seeking protection in the United Kingdom from violence and persecution abroad. Asylum Aid itself is an independent, national charity assisting refugees in the UK. They help the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people seeking asylum in the UK by giving them free legal advice and representing them in their asylum application. They also combine their advice work and policy work with campaigning for the fair treatment of refugees in this country.

Conference instructs the National Women’s Committee to:

1)increase awareness of the issue within UNISON’s internal and external structures;

2)work with the Refugee Women’s Resource Project and Asylum Aid in raising awareness of the plight of women trafficked into the United Kingdom to work in the sex industry;”

3)raise the issue with Labour Link especially the signing of the European Convention against trafficking;

4)consider an article to highlight the continuing plight of these young women for a future newsletter.