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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 12:01 GMT
Trafficker cash 'to help victims'
Child prostitutes
Women and children are often forced to work as prostitutes
Cash seized from people smugglers in the UK could be used to help victims rebuild their lives.

Solicitor General Harriet Harman is looking at diverting money from the public purse to help victims in their own countries.

UN figures suggest that 700,000 people are trafficked each year and forced into prostitution, with 1,400 coming to the UK.

Ms Harman is to sign an agreement with Nigeria to help combat people smugglers

'Groundbreaking deal'

The Labour MP will agree a memorandum of understanding with Nigerian Attorney General Akinlolu Olujimi in London on Wednesday.

The 'groundbreaking deal' will seek to improve co-operation in all aspects of anti-trafficking operations.

Harriet Harman
Harriet Harman says cash help for victims is being discussed
On plans to divert cash to smuggling victims, Ms Harman said: "One of the things which is being discussed is whether some of the proceeds of crime can go back to the countries of origin to help re-settle victims.

"That is being discussed in government circles and among various agencies involved in the problem.

"I know that the Treasury are very concerned to help with this problem and they have certainly listened very positively to proposals that I have made on this."

Smuggled for sex

Ms Harman said that, if the new scheme goes ahead, it is unlikely that funds seized by police would be given as direct grants to individual victims.

Instead, she said, schemes could be funded to help victims and deter traffickers in countries where the practice is prevelant.

This would include eastern European and west African states.

One operation by London's Metropolitan Police last year rescued more than 120 women who had been smuggled into Britain for sex - including victims from Thailand, Moldova and Lithuania.

The business could be worth 7.5 billion a year.

Last December, the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith QC, warned that police and prosecutors were failing to tackle the multi-million pound "growth industry".


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