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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 17:18 GMT
South: Sex trade
Peter Henley
Peter Henley
Politics Editor BBC South

It is everywhere you look, from ads for phone sex chat lines to escort services and then there are the stag and hen night parties to massage parlours in the South's booming resorts like Bournemouth and Brighton.

And then there are the stag and hen night parties to massage parlours in the South's booming resorts like Bournemouth and Brighton.

Sex is the internet's hot topic, with at least half a dozen south coast based sites dedicated to the sex trade.

But beneath the Lads Mags chat and the girls wearing bunny girl T shirts there is a story of real human misery.

It is the 21st century slave trade.

Women brought from Lithuania or Latvia to the South coast to work in massage parlours that are really brothels.

According to Hampshire police 80% of the sex trade here is now controlled by organised gangs from Eastern Europe and the Far East.

The police try to break up illegal brothels when they can, using intelligence to track the pimps who run the girls.

The Home Office is funding the 'Poppy Project' to help the women break away from the financial and emotional dependence on those who brought them to this country.

The problem may be growing, but the solution is not straightforward.

When girls who have been brought to this country against their will - trafficked - are sent back to their country of origin some end up being re-trafficked within weeks.

Maria was brought to England from Albania when she was 18.

She told the Politics Show "If you have to deal with traffickers, even if you go away from them, they will find a way to contact you.

"What I have been through was stressful. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep.

"I couldn't even go to look out of the window I was too scared of them."

Amnesty International are campaigning for victims of trafficking to be given the right to stay in the UK.

It would mean adopting the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

The convention would allow temporary residence permits for victims who assist with prosecutions, or who would be in danger if they returned home.

But some believe this would allow anyone in the country illegally to claim they had been trafficked.

And some sex workers say the Police emphasis on raids of brothels, and the Home Office crackdowns are distracting from initiatives to improve the lives of prostitutes.

Julie Davies from the Sex Workers branch of the GMB union describes new initiatives on prostitution as "Dickensian."

She argues that if women and punters were not treated as criminals then those making money from the sex trade would find their profits quickly disappearing, and with it the criminal gangs that turn sex into human misery.

The Politics Show

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11 Sep 05 |  England


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