Page last updated at 06:30 GMT, Monday, 19 March 2007

How to tackle human trafficking

"Trafficked women are ordinary people who left home thinking they would be waitresses.

Zarin Hainsworth
Zarin Hainsworth wants the media to raise awareness

"They are then groomed, suffering gang rape and violence, into someone who receives 20-odd clients a day at all-service establishments."

Zarin Hainsworth knows what she is talking about, and has often argued her case at the UN and before the EU and UK governments.

The Stroud-based campaigner heads up the National Alliance of Women's Organisations, a lobbying organisation working to help draft legislation around women's rights - and putting pressure on governments to implement it.

She played a part in getting definitions of trafficking incorporated into UK law and campaigns tirelessly for gender equality.

For Ms Hainsworth, trafficking is about dealing with supply and demand, and relates to the wider issue of society's tolerance of violence against women.

Wiltshire: "There is currently no intelligence to suggest that any trafficking is taking place within the county"
Gloucestershire: Recently shut down a Cheltenham brothel involving trafficked women, securing a jail term for a Chinese man
Avon and Somerset: Refuses to reveal how many officers are dedicated to targeting trafficking, or how many arrests the force has made

"We need to cut the demand in the host countries and cut corruption, increase life chances and boost the economy in the countries of origin, she said.

In this analysis, Ms Hainsworth echoes Claudia Agresta of the International Organisation for Migration, which runs a voluntary return and re-integration programme for trafficked women.

Her organisation has dealt with more than 10,000 victims.

Ms Agresta describes the typical trafficked woman as "18 to 23 with no secondary education, unemployed and living in reduced circumstances".

"We need to address the root causes [of trafficking] in countries of origin - poverty, violence and demand," she said.

Many trafficking victims believe they can escape these pressures in the UK, only to find themselves sold as sex slaves.

This comes as the UK marks the 200th anniversary of the Parliamentary Act to abolish the slave trade.

Residency permits

Some of these victims then find themselves deported back to their violent home lives in non-EU countries.

"After deportation they go back to the same situation: the mafia have control of their families and they live with threats of violence," Ms Hainsworth said.

"Returned women have been raped at police stations - we have anecdotal evidence for this."

She welcomed the government u-turn on providing asylum for trafficked victims to help them out of the vicious circle.

It had refused to sign the Council of Europe's Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, which provides a more victim-centric approach through a 30-day reflection period during which trafficking victims cannot be deported, and residency permits.

The Home Office had argued that it had to take immigration law into account and that by signing the convention, people could "abuse" the fact that they had been a victim of trafficking.

But in January, the Home Secretary backed down and the government is due to sign "in a matter of months".

For Ms Hainsworth, the humanitarian benefits are obvious and she said this will also boost the chances of successful prosecutions.

A sex worker
Human trafficking is a global problem

"Often these women only know the police back home as corrupt. We need to give the police the chance to get witnesses.

"Of course, if one considers the trauma suffered by trafficked women it is doubtful whether a month is sufficient to overcome the trauma in order to make a judgement on what to do with the rest of one's life. However it is a significant move forward," she added.

She also wants more action on the demand for trafficked women working as prostitutes in the UK.

"What does it say about our society that we are the main destination for trafficked women?

"Customers sometime say they like a woman who can't speak English - so they can talk dirtier to her," she added.

Denise Marshall, from the Eaves charity which runs a project providing shelter for trafficked woman, said that since 2003, they had had 555 referrals and taken in 145 women.

"180 woman were referred by police. But 11 were referred from punters - who had slept with the women before referring them."

Ms Hainsworth added: "We need a media campaign to affect this demand."

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