Sex workers rally over deportation of 28 prostitutes held in Soho raids

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The Independent Online

Twenty-eight prostitutes arrested during raids in London were facing deportation last night, provoking protests from a sex workers' campaign group.

Twenty-eight prostitutes arrested during raids in London were facing deportation last night, provoking protests from a sex workers' campaign group.

Police and immigration officers raided 52 flats in Soho on Thursday and arrested 33 suspected prostitutes, two of whom were aged 16. Twenty-two were Kosovars, five were Albanians, two Moldovans, and there was one each from Iraq, Thailand, Russia and Belarus.

Five were released and the remainder are being treated as illegal immigrants.

The police said one of the aims of the raids was to free foreign prostitutes from the control of violent pimps and traffickers and allow them to return home.

They said increasing numbers of prostitutes were being smuggled into Britain by organised crime groups and forced to work in the sex industry. The majority of these werefrom Eastern Europe and the Far East.

The English Collective of Prostitutes, which held a demonstration outside the Home Office yesterday to protest against the raids and the deportation plans, said that most of the women were freely working in the sex industry. It said that, if any woman had been smuggled or tricked into Britain by criminals, then sending them home was likely to place them in danger.

"Police and the Government are prioritising implementing repressive immigration controls over women and children's safety and welfare and using anti-trafficking as an excuse to deport women," a spokeswoman said.

Chief Inspector Chris Bradford, of the Metropolitan Police clubs and vice unit, said: "We have been able to help the unknown victims, those who have often been maliciously drawn in and trapped into vice rings. They have been afforded the opportunity to speak with us and receive our help to enable them to escape from those which are, in effect, their captors.

"Through working with the Immigration Service we hope to gain valuable intelligence which could prove vital to cracking some of the highly organised structures which operate the vice trade in Soho."

A study of prostitution in London found that every week more than 80,000 men paid for sex in the capital, spending about £200m a year.

There are an estimated 5,255 women prostitutes working in London, with increasing numbers turning to more profitable business in massage parlours and saunas. An extra £50m is being paid in entrance fees to clubs and establishments where sex is for sale.

The number of women working on the streets has fallen drastically, with only about 100 active per night.

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