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The BBC's Mike Thomson
"Many are lured from poor Eastern European countries"
 real 28k

Anne Widdecombe MP
"Police should look at this actively"
 real 28k

Thursday, 17 February, 2000, 22:15 GMT
Prostitute rackets rife in UK

prostitutes Many prostitutes earn next to nothing


Hundreds of women from the former Soviet bloc countries are being smuggled into the UK each month to work as prostitutes, according to a Home Office report.

BBC Radio 4's Today programme has learned that the report, to be published in the spring, also concludes that most police forces lack any strategy to tackle the criminal gangs involved.

The research was carried out by the University of North London's Child and Women Abuse Studies Unit.

It used a survey of immigration officers, customs officials and three-quarters of the police forces in England and Wales.

Rural towns

The findings showed criminal gangs trafficking prostitutes are not confining their activities to major cities.

In some small towns, often in rural areas, police officers reported between 12 and 20 trafficked women on their books.

In London's backstreet brothels, six out of 10 women are trafficked.

A BBC correspondent says many of the women end up earning little or nothing and the traffickers often use violence and intimidation to ensure they do not run away or call the police.

No strategy

Many arrive from countries such as the Ukraine. Since 1991 half a million women have left the former Soviet republic, which is crippled by a 70% unemployment rate.

When they arrive in the UK they are told they owe the gangs which brought them thousands of pounds for accommodation, fees to the brothel madam and advertising.

Two such women were recently found murdered, one chopped up in a suitcase at Heathrow airport.

The report concludes that police forces outside London have no strategy to counter this form of crime.

Shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe told the Today programme that if there was a national strategy it would need police resources to carry it out.

"Jack Straw's latest recruiting package isn't going to make any difference to the fall in police numbers," she said.

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See also:
01 Feb 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Prostitutes gear up for Olympic sex
01 Dec 98 |  Inside EMU
Crime without frontiers
10 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Sri Lanka's human smuggling rings
03 Feb 00 |  UK
UK's biggest passport scam foiled
11 Mar 98 |  Europe
Sex crime problems peak in Germany

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