New vice squad to tackle airport sex-slave auctions

A special sex trafficking squad is being set up to investigate the escalating problem of foreign women being smuggled into Britain to work as prostitutes.

The 30-strong unit will be based at Scotland Yard and is due to start work in the autumn.

It comes amid rising alarm among police officers at the huge numbers of foreign women being forced into prostitution on arrival in this country.

The Crown Prosecution Service will warn at a conference today that "slave auctions" of women to be sold into prostitution are being held on the concourses of British airports by brothel keepers.

Trafficking gangs are selling sex workers as soon as they arrive on British soil from many countries including eastern European states, the CPS research has discovered.

One auction of sex workers even took place outside a coffee shop in the arrivals hall at Gatwick airport, while others have been reportedly held at Heathrow and Stansted airports.

The head of operations at Britain's largest vice squad admitted that the police were only beginning to realise the scale of the problem, which is also linked to drugs and guns.

"There has been a significant increase in the trafficking of women for sexual exploitation," said Detective Chief Superintendent David Eyles, the head of operations at the Metropolitan Police's clubs and vice unit. "It is only since we started to tackle the problem [in an operation that was started in January] that it has become clear it's a national and international phenomenon.

"If I got a train to anywhere in the country, I could find a brothel within an hour which was using women from outside this country.

"Fifteen years ago, if you went to a brothel, 75 to 80 per cent of the women would have been UK citizens but now the opposite is true and 80 per cent are foreign nationals.

"I don't think there has been any appreciation until recently about the scale of what is going on."

The squad will be funded by the Home Office and will be charged with tracking down leading traffickers and gangs running brothels.

Violent Albanian gangs are increasingly controlling the sex industry in Britain. The police are particularly concerned about the traffickers because they are also involved in guns and drug dealing as part of their business.

Vice officers have discovered that many of the foreign women who work in brothels come to Britain specifically to work in the sex industry, rather than being innocent victims. The women buy forged documents from the traffickers and some are smuggled into the country, while others come as tourists but do not leave.

Det Chief Supt Eyles said that the women can make huge amounts of money - from £5,000 to £10,000 a week.

Most of the money is used to pay off the traffickers and the brothel owners or sent back to the families of the prostitutes.

Many of the women are abused, gang raped, imprisoned in tiny rooms and made to have sex with up to 40 men a day.

A Home Office report five years ago estimated the number of victims at 1,400, but experts believe the current figure could be double that. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said the new "reactive" unit will take on high level investigations.

Detectives will be expected to carry out surveillance and covert operations against the major traffickers.

The unit will also work with the Immigration Service, the Passport Service and the CPS.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor