Technical ReportPDF Available

Shadow City - Exposing Human Trafficking in Everyday London

Exposing Human Trafficking
in Everyday London
Andrew Boff
GLA Conservatives
2nd Revision
Table of Contents
Foreword by Anthony Steen 1!
Methodology 2!
Acknowledgements 4!
Executive Summary 7!
Introduction 17!
Background to the research in this report 21!
Nigerian victims of trafficking 41!
Chinese victims of trafficking 88!
The sex grooming and trafficking of British children 107!
The labour trafficking of homeless and vulnerable men 134!
Latin American victims of trafficking 155!
Vietnamese victims of trafficking 172!
Recommendations for the Greater London Authority 195!
Recommendations for the Government 205!
Return on investment model 208!
Survey of teachers and social workers in London 216!
Appendix I 220!
Appendix II 223!
Appendix III 227!
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Foreword by Anthony Steen
Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation, founder of the APPG on Human Trafficking, and a
former MP whose Private Members Bill led to the establishment of the National Slavery Day
Human trafficking or modern day slavery, as it should be called, is starting to impinge upon
public consciousness and affect the political landscape. Few people understand what it’s all
about and the different kinds of slavery which exist, whether Vietnamese boys tending
cannabis plants or Nigerian girls forced into domestic servitude. No one seems to care too
much because there are few votes in it anyway. Yet the number of victims identified is
increasing year by year and the number of traffickers convicted falling. Nearly 50% of the
victims of modern day slavery are found in London and the Home Counties.
Traffickers are traders in human beings; just as if they were coffee they are a commodity.
Traffickers are business men and women who use the fact that human beings are recyclable
to exploit new business opportunities.
London, as the capital city, has a vast dark side to it that few of us see. London residents
don’t believe they ever come into contact with it, but they are wrong. As Andrew Boff’s
report shows, Londoners are probably never more than a few hundred yards away from a
victim of trafficking. With 7500 cannabis farms being found in the UK last year, victims are
close by and look the same as us, yet they are all unseen, hidden and not easily detected.
Andrew Boff’s report shows why victims hidden away in closed communities are even more
difficult to detect. The community closes in around them and prevents authorities
discovering them. In exploring these issues, Andrew Boff has, once again, done a great
service to all of us fighting modern day slavery and to Londoners in particular. His enquiring
mind and detective-like qualities have produced a penetrating study exploring what is
actually happening in London’s ‘closed communities’.
By raising this issue in his capacity of leader of the Conservative Group on the Greater
London Authority, he is doing exactly what is needed to make us all more aware of how we
should be fighting back and rescuing victims caught in this ugly snare. This report is essential
reading for those who are concerned to rid this country of modern day slavery.
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In this report I have used the following range of qualitative and quantitative methods:
Qualitative interviews with 64 stakeholders including representatives from the third
sector, statutory services, trafficking consultancies, and government officials.
Formulated a survey for 30 teachers and 30 social workers in London to test their
awareness of human trafficking and how to respond to it.
Data provided by the UKHTC, Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime, the Crown
Prosecution Service, Anti-Slavery International’s RACE in Europe Project, the
Metropolitan Police Service, the UK Missing Persons Bureau, and NGOs working
with trafficking victims.
A review of some of the literature on the topic of human trafficking.
Produced a Return on Investment (ROI) model for the recommendations in the
This report is a collection of anecdotal and statistical evidence which I have collected over
the past year about human trafficking in London. The aim of the report is partly to provide
an overview of what various interested parties believe is going on, where disagreements
exist, and where stakeholders' concerns lie. Indeed, some of the evidence I have heard in
fact contradicts other evidence I have received. However, I wanted to give experts and
communities in London a voice and therefore I have included quotations that may be
controversial and may require further evidence. I hope these quotations, from experts on
trafficking and exploitation, many of which were repeated consistently to me in various
guises by other stakeholders, are examined by the authorities, who have greater resource
to look into these concerns further.
The nature of human trafficking is fluid and changing. The authorities and police are also
constantly changing both in terms of their structure and their response. Indeed the UKBA
was formally dissolved while I wrote this report and the name of the Human Exploitation
and Organised Crime Command, which comprises the Metropolitan Police Service’s Human
Trafficking Unit, has changed multiple times. Therefore some evidence may be out of date
or could soon be following this report's publication.
Anecdotal evidence may at times be unreliable. For practical and ethical reasons, the
majority of victims’ case studies we cite in this report were heard second hand from those
who worked with victims of trafficking. Furthermore, qualitative evidence can be unreliable
due to possible vested interests of the parties involved, or may be distorted by different
views by different stakeholders of, for example, what a victim of trafficking actually
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Data is also potentially unreliable. As discussed in the report, the data acquired may simply
reflect those cases where police are proactively looking. Alternatively, it may predominantly
include only those victims who are more easily able to escape, or be found, or who are
more easily identifiable as victims of trafficking. What is not in the data may indeed be
where we should be most concerned. The reverse however is also possible.
The survey I have carried out involves only a small number of interviewees. This means that
the results are not steadfast but simply give a broad brushstroke of possible gaps in London-
based social workers’ and teachers’ knowledge around human trafficking.
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Tamara Barnett - Author and Researcher of the main body of the report
Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop – Author and Researcher of the Return on Investment Model
The survey was carried out by Censuswide
Andrew Boff would like to thank these individuals and organisations for their time, as well as
the many other individuals and organisations who have chosen not to be named, for all the
valuable information they have provided and for all their assistance with this report.
In alphabetical order:
Niki Adams, English Collective of Prostitutes
Dr Laura Agustín, author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the
Rescue Industry
Carolina Albuerne, Refugee and Human Trafficking Specialist
Olori Grace Alli-Tijani, Executive Director, Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse
Counselling Service (DASAC)
Professor Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration and Citizenship, and Deputy
Director, Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS)
Debbie Ariyo, Founder and Chief Executive, Africans Unite Against Child Abuse
Cherifa Atoussi, Consultant, Anti Trafficking Consultant Ltd
Professor Kurt Barling, Professor of Professional Practice in Journalism &
Television, Middlesex University London and Special Correspondent, BBC London
Pam Bowen, Strategy and Policy Directorate, Crown Prosecution Service
Marcela Benedetti, VAWG Outreach and Prevention Coordinator, Latin American
Women’s Rights Services (LAWRS)
Antony Botting, Human Trafficking and NRM Project Lead Officer in Croydon
Vicky Brotherton, Project Assistant, Anti-Slavery International’s RACE in Europe
Myriam Cherti, Associate Fellow, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)
Andy Desmond, Director, Anti-Trafficking Consultant Ltd, and UNODC Expert
Peter Dolby, Director and Co-Founder, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau (CHTB)
Andy Elvin, CEO, Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB)
Benjamin Flook, Intern, Greater London Authority
Lola Gani-Yusuf, Anti-Trafficking Project Coordinator, Africans Unite Against Child
Abuse, (AFRUCA)
Carolina Gottardo, Director, Latin American Women’s Rights Services (LAWRS)
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Paul Hewitt, Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance, Hillingdon
The Home Office
Hope for Justice
Philip Ishola, Director, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau (CHTB)
Raven Kaliana, Director, Outspiral
Kids Company
Dr Tom Lam, fieldworker for Chinese migrants for COMPAS
Marai Larasi, Executive Director, Imkaan
Jaime Law, Project Coordinator, Chinese Information and Advice Centre (CIAC)
Dr. Lois Lee, Founder and President, Children of the Night
London Local Safeguarding Children Board
The Metropolitan Police Service
Professor Nick Mai, Working Lives Research Institute, London Metropolitan
Michael May, Business Development Manager, Survivors UK
Phil Mitchell, Project Coordinator, The BLAST Project
Tony Murphy, Partner, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors
The Naz Project
Jenny Pennington, Researcher, IPPR
Kate Roberts, Community Advocate, Kalayaan
Councillor Ian Rowley, Westminster City Council and the Chair of Westminster
City Council Sex Worker Task Group
Sumanta Roy, Policy and Research Manager, Imkaan
The Salvation Army
Klara Skrivankova, Trafficking Programme Co-ordinator, Anti-Slavery International
Tim Starkey, Barrister specialising in criminal law at Castle Chambers
Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns, ECPAT UK
Megan Stewart, London Reconnection Manager, Thames Reach
Louise Streeter, Immigration & Public Law lawyer
Anthony Steen, Chairman, The Human Trafficking Foundation
Tara Topteagarden, Trafficked Boys and Young Men's Advisor, Refugee Council
Andrew Wallis, CEO of Unseen and Chair of Centre for Social Justice Working
Huw Watkins, Head of the Intelligence Hub at the UK Intellectual Property Office,
former Head of the Force Intelligence Bureau and Human Trafficking lead in Gwent
Police Force
Daniel Woolf, Research Assistant, Greater London Authority
Alison Worsley, Deputy Director, Barnardo’s
UKBA (Border Force)
UK Missing Persons Bureau
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Afruca - Africans Unite Against Child Abuse
ATMG - Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group
CEOP - Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
CPS - Crown Prosecution Service
CFAB - Children and Families across Borders
CHTB - Counter Human Trafficking Bureau
CIAC - Chinese Information and Advice Centre
COMPAS - Centre on Migration, Policy and Society
CSJ - Centre for Social Justice
DASAC - Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Counselling Service
DFID - Department for International Development
ECPAT UK - End Child Prostitution and Trafficking United Kingdom
GLA - Gangmasters Licensing Authority
GLA - Greater London Authority
IDMG - Interdepartmental Ministerial Group
ILO - International Labour Organisation
IOM - International Organisation for Migration
IPPR - Institute for Public Policy Research
LAWRS - Latin American Women’s Rights Services
LSCB - Local Safeguarding Children Board
MOPAC - Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime
MPS - Metropolitan Police Service
NAPTIP - National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons
NCA - National Crime Agency
NGO - Non-governmental organisation
NHS - National Health Service
NMW - National minimum wage
NRM - National Referral Mechanism
ODW - Overseas Domestic Worker
PCSO - Police Community Support Officer
SCD9 - Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command, Metropolitan Police
SC&O7 - Specialist, Organised & Economic Crime Command, Metropolitan Police
SC&O9 - Specialist & Economic Crime Command, Metropolitan Police Service
SNT - Safer Neighbourhood Team
SOCA - Serious and Organised Crime Agency
TIP - Trafficking in Persons
UKBA - United Kingdom Border Agency
UKHTC - United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre
UNODC - United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
VAWG - Violence against Women and Girls
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Executive Summary
Nearer than you think
Increasingly the authorities and many residents in London know that there is a criminal
activity called human trafficking. What they don’t usually know, accurately, is what human
trafficking actually constitutes and what forms are taking place around them. Most London
residents imagine that it does not touch directly on their lives – that the exploitation takes
place in brothels run by foreign gangs controlling foreign women. But it’s nearer than they
If you have had an Irish or Eastern European traveller knocking on your door offering cut-
price construction work, if you have had a manicure at a Vietnamese nail bar; if you have
been to inexpensive Chinese and Indian restaurants or takeaways; passed by groups of men
at mobile soup runs for the homeless; if you have taken cannabis; bumped into Latin
American cleaning staff at London hotels; dealt with British or African children who play
truant at school; if any of these circumstances are familiar to you, then you may well have
seen or even indirectly been involved in the exploitation of a victim of “trafficking.”
But human trafficking is not slavery in the historic sense - this is the first misleading notion
and is partly why authorities often fail to recognise, and so let down, victims of trafficking.
The scare-stories about thousands of hidden slaves tied up against their will is inaccurate.
What can be found in London, in higher numbers, are children and vulnerable British adults
and, often irregular, migrants being relentlessly exploited, particularly by British standards
and international human rights legislation.
However, “choice”, ambiguous as that term may be, is involved in these victims’
circumstances and, in many cases these people – such as migrants from poverty stricken
backgrounds or homeless British male victims - may see this life as an improvement on
where they have come from. Yet some victims will experience appalling and often gruesome
abuse in the UK. Sexual torture, starvation and physical abuse are not uncommon in these
outwardly ‘consensual’ environments. However, at the other end of the scale you can find
workers experiencing no physical or sexual abuse, and whose ‘traffickers’ have largely kept
to the terms of agreement. They will be being paid less than the minimum wage, working
unremitting hours, and be in unreasonably high debt bondage to criminals. They will also still
live in a state of anxiety relating to those they owe money to, or those they work with, or
the British authorities due to their irregular immigration status. This makes human
trafficking a grey area, not black and white as is commonly presented.
But does trafficking really exist?
According to the UN Palermo Protocol,1 Human Trafficking is the recruitment,
transportation, and harbouring of a person by threat, force, coercion, abduction, deception,
or abuse of their vulnerability with the aim of exploiting them. However, an illegal migrant
who has chosen to leave exploitative, possibly violent, circumstances in their homeland to
work in a less but still exploitative environment in the UK presents a problem to the
authorities. Even child trafficking, while seemingly more clear-cut, since a child cannot
consent, contains ambiguities. Dr Nick Mai has criticised the pseudo-objective view of a
2 Tampering with the Sex of ‘Angels’: Migrant Male Minors and Young Adults Selling Sex in the EU, Prof Nick
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“child”, which ignores the harsh cultural realities of many migrant children. Dr Mai’s work2
with some heterosexual male Roma youths found that Government and NGO services
were out of sync with their needs and were not able to match the opportunities the boys
felt sex work gave them. Many of the boys felt empowered as it provided them with wealth
in a way their circumstance, due to a lack of education and social stigma as a migrant, could
not. Unconsciously, the authorities are also rejecting the legal framework requirements to
protect children. Indeed, when the authorities come across British children who are sexually
groomed by gangs or Vietnamese children working in cannabis farms, they are still failing to
recognise children as victims of trafficking and exploitation. Children nonetheless make up a
significant number of the potential cases of trafficking in London cited by the Government’s
UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC). Between 1st January 2013 and 31st August 2013,
106 of the 389 potential victims of trafficking, exploited in London, were children.3
Some academics question whether trafficking really exists and whether this isn’t just a term
used to cloak Western society’s discomfort about the natural movement of poor migrants,
living in awful conditions, moving into our countries to live in slightly less awful conditions,
and doing jobs and living in conditions we don’t like the sound of. Yes, these academics say,
exploitation exists – but it is far more prosaic than any rhetoric on human trafficking would
suggest. They feel that there is no such thing as trafficking – a term which emphasises the
issue of ‘movement’, which they see as a political but irrelevant issue. Instead they cite that,
rather than some broad sweeping term, there are individual crimes and problems that can
be broken down into types, such as poverty, rape, abuse, and exploitation. In one sense, I
agree. The anti-trafficking ‘rescue industry’ has many well-meaning individuals who are
simply uncomfortable with the choices that other people, with more limited choices, have
to make. This is particularly marked in some NGOs’ attitudes in conflating all migrant sex
workers with trafficked victims.
I do however increasingly think the term “trafficking” helps to expose the abuse involved
and explain these individuals’ specific vulnerabilities. I can see that in many cases movement
does matter. An orphan placed in an informal fostering arrangement in West Africa may be
a reasonable option because there is no formal social security and this situation is regulated
by community social structures. However, movement across borders changes everything, as
those brought here are suddenly in an illegal situation and so they are more hidden and so
more vulnerable. Furthermore, because the children are often here illegally, when they
reach eighteen they are invisible to the British authorities and this makes them susceptible
to deportation or to going underground and getting involved in dangerous activities. The
term ‘trafficking’ is also helpful for British-born cases. Until 2011, the grooming of girls had
been played down by the authorities for decades, to the extent that the girls felt that their
treatment was normal. The term trafficking reminds them, the system, and the judges that
these girls have been treated as mere commodities.
There are, however, reasonable concerns about the consequences of policies to tackle this
crime. Campaigning for proactive work to prevent exploitation, for example in restaurants,
has the short-term effect of pushing migrants into more underground, dangerous sectors,
and may have the long-term effect of discouraging migrants from entering the country. This,
in effect, forces them to stay in even more exploitative conditions in their home country.
2 Tampering with the Sex of ‘Angels’: Migrant Male Minors and Young Adults Selling Sex in the EU, Prof Nick
Mai, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 37, Issue 8, 2011
3 Data provided to us by the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
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When the cause of the trafficking of migrants is poverty, a real victim-focused approach
would target this root cause. Instead anti-trafficking approaches often equate to:
exploitation exists everywhere; but let’s not have it happening here!
This report
Prior to the 2012 Olympics, the human trafficking agenda suddenly became high-profile.4
However, policy, media headlines and public rhetoric focused exclusively on the cases of
migrant women being sexually exploited in brothels. The Metropolitan Police Service
received half a million pounds5 to tackle this problem and used the majority of their
resources to target the brothel industry.6 One source told me that they had been told by a
senior police officer that the police intended to use the Olympics trafficking scare as an
excuse to bear down on brothels. Indeed, the extra resources and increased brothel raids
did little to find victims of trafficking, though it did succeed in closing down many brothels. A
year-on-year comparison reveals that there were four trafficking cases recorded in 2011 in
London, and similarly only four cases were recorded in the 2012 Olympic year.7 There is
human trafficking in brothels, but this evidence suggests that it is by no means the majority
of cases that take place in London and therefore I believe significant resources were wasted
in the run up to the Olympics.
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’s (MOPAC) strategy on trafficking is still entirely
under the Violence against Women and Girls agenda.8 This is a significant oversight when
the number of labour trafficking cases being identified by the authorities is catching up with,
and will no doubt at some point overtake, the number of sex trafficking cases we are
seeing.9 Indeed, the Salvation Army’s most recent data analysis reveals that they have seen
more victims of labour trafficking than victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation.10
MOPAC’s female-focused strategy on trafficking also demonstrates a blindness to the sexual
abuse of men and boys, cases of which are discussed in almost every chapter of this
report.11 Data shows that, even with this oversight by MOPAC, just over 20% of all victims
4 For example,
Olympics-Home-Secretary-warns.html and
5 MPA report: Metropolitan Police Service, Human Trafficking response, Report: 7; 28 Jan2010: “CO14 has
successfully bid for £600,000 funding for 2010/12 from the GOL Migration Impact Fund to support the
Olympic boroughs in relation to victims trafficked for sexual exploitation.”
6 Mayoral question 3395/2011 frm Andrew Boff,
7 Mayoral question number 2483/2012; 19/09/2012
8 The Mayor’s The Way Forward 2010-13,
priorities/violence-against-women-girls/local-vawg-guidance. Under the previous Mayor “between 2004-08 any
Human Trafficking work commissioned by the Mayor was undertaken within the GLA’s Domestic Violence
Project Team.” Andrew Boff, MQT, 01/30/13
9 Labour trafficking is already beginning to appear to overtake sexual exploitation - recent Salvation Army
data, from July 2011 to April 2013, showed that labour exploitation accounted for more cases than sex
exploitation of the cases they had seen with 43% of cases involving labour trafficking and 40% of cases
involving sex trafficking
11 The one exception is the Chapter on Homeless Victims of Trafficking. All other closed communities and
trafficking types discussed in this report include cases of sexual abuse of male victims.
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found so far in London in 2013 were male.12 The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime’s
strategy on human trafficking is outdated, discriminatory, dangerous for male victims and
needs to change.
I also have concerns about the way we are policing human trafficking. Proactive policing,
particularly in the boroughs, is often not victim-focused. For example, raids on restaurants
or brothels often involve no follow-up with those working on the premises, who are pushed
into more underground, dangerous work as a result of police activity.13 The Metropolitan
Police Service’s Trafficking Unit, SC&O7, are regularly praised for their expertise and victim-
focused approach. However, they are overstretched and target mostly large-scale organised
crime networks which, evidence suggests, means that they are missing large numbers of
informal cases, some of which are far more severe than the cases they target. Yet these
cases are not being pursued by borough police, whose knowledge, sensitivity and interest in
these cases is often limited. Indeed, the boroughs largely fail to recognise any human
trafficking cases around them even when victims present themselves to front desks. The
above concerns about policing may explain why less than one in ten of those flagged as
victims of trafficking in London from January to August 2013 were identified by the
Metropolitan Police.14
In this report, I examine some of the more hidden and subtle forms of human trafficking
taking place in closed communities in London. Evidence suggests that victims of trafficking in
these communities are often overlooked by the authorities. Other victim groups, who I
have been unable to cover in this report, but who have been mentioned over the course of
this investigation and, I believe, require further investigation by the authorities, include the
trafficking of Moroccan, Pakistani and Bangladeshi victims into the UK.
The trafficking and exploitation of Nigerian and other West African
Nigerian victims of trafficking were the biggest victim group in the IDMG data from 201215
and the second largest group identified in London in 2013.16 While data on human trafficking
is often unreliable and distorted, NGOs working with West African victims said that the
abuse of Nigerians, particularly in domestic servitude, was extensive in London.
These cases are usually not organised by criminal organisations but are informal
arrangements involving someone the victim may know. Sexual, domestic and criminal (for
benefits) exploitation takes place in closed networks in the West African community in
12 Data kindly provided by the UKHTC between 1st January-31st August 2013, 81 of 389 potential victims
referred to UKHTC were male. See Appendix 2.
13 Recent evidence of this in Channel 4 Documentary, Sex: My British Job by Nick Broomfield and Hsiao-Hung
Pa. “She originally worked as a DVD seller and in a restaurant but said that it was impossible to continue after
the police cracked down” Quotation from Daily Mail article “Channel 4 documentary reveals what life is like
inside Britain's immigrant brothels”, by Ruth Styles, 20 September 2013,
14 Data provided by the UKHTC between 1st January-31st August 2013, the Metropolitan Police Service only
found 36 of the 389 potential victims identified to the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
15 By far the largest number of referrals of potential victims of trafficking received by the UKHTC since the
inception of the NRM in April 2009 are Nigerian nationals” First annual report of the Inter-Departmental
Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, 2012
16 Data provided by UKHTC. 76 potential cases of human trafficking involved Nigerian victims. 118 of 389
referrals were from Africa. See Appendix 2.
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residential areas. New trends suggest baby trafficking is on the rise as well. These traffickers
are not gang members but mothers, council workers, pastors and other respectable
members of the community. No police raid on a brothel will find them. Yet the victims may
be coming into contact with neighbours, churches, health professionals and even teachers
fairly regularly.
West African cases of human trafficking are struggling to be recognised. The Government’s
National Referral Mechanism to identify trafficked victims disproportionately rejects
Nigerian cases of trafficking.17 The police also reject Nigerian cases, seeing victims as “on the
make,”18 or claiming that there is too little evidence to charge anyone. Yet one stakeholder
working with a Nigerian victim, after being told by police that they couldn’t find any
evidence on the trafficker, searched for the trafficker’s name on Google and found him for
the police immediately.
Other concerning evidence I came across revealed that the UK is sometimes used as a
transit destination and is targeted by Nigerian traffickers who are looking to move victims
into mainland Europe. Immigration officials sometimes failed to notice that documents were
obviously forged and there is currently no requirement for a personal interview when
children are brought into the country. Children are particularly vulnerable in this system and
seem to disappear easily in London on expired visas. The lack of exit checks in this country
also assists traffickers.
The trafficking and exploitation of Chinese victims
The Chinese community was repeatedly described to me as impenetrable by NGOs
supporting victims of trafficking. Stakeholders supporting victims of trafficking relayed how
Chinese victims were one of the largest trafficking groups19 and yet they didn’t engage with
support services. This should be a cause for concern. Instead, some authorities are choosing
to ignore this issue and assume the silence of these victims signifies that there isn’t a
problem. However, even when victims do ask for help, they may be ignored. One boy trying
to escape his traffickers, and who asked his South London borough if he could be moved,
was recommended to use Gumtree.
Many cases of exploitation of Chinese migrants are complex. The individuals have usually
chosen to come to the UK and may expect, to a lesser or greater extent, the often horrific
conditions in which they are being made to work and live in. The extreme poverty they
have left behind may explain this. Gangs, nonetheless, often use the threat of violence, yet
workers frequently view the gang leaders, known as ‘snakeheads,’ who brought them over
with respect.
The impression that Chinese trafficking goes on directly under the noses of the authorities
was particularly highlighted by the case of the London Special Treatments Group. This is a
17 For example, data in an ECPAT UK Briefing on the National Referral Mechanism for children found that 32%
of Nigerian children between April 2009 to 30 June 2011 received conclusive grounds accepting them as
victims of trafficking. Meanwhile, British children had an 88% rate of receiving conclusive grounds and
Romanian children had a 68% chance.
18 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors , 2012
19 Data provided by UKHTC. The sixth largest group of potential victims of trafficking came from China, Jan-
August, 2013. Data provided to us by the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
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group of council officers who, in at least one case, had effectively allowed a brothel in
Chinatown, paying the Chinese women £3 an hour, to be approved as a beauty spa, and
thus exempt from having a licence.
Some stakeholders said that Chinatown had high levels of crime but that this activity did not
manifest itself in crime statistics and therefore, rather than leading to more proactive
policing to find crime, fewer resources were being put in. Indeed, the Chinese Divisional
Unit in the Metropolitan Police Service is effectively being disbanded. Chinatown was
repeatedly cited as a locality where some of the gangs operate and where some of the
restaurants were operated by staff working under the conditions described above. It may be
in London’s interests if the lauded Gangmasters Licensing Authority, set up after the death
of 21 Chinese cockle pickers to monitor the agricultural sector, extends its remit so that it
covers the sectors more commonly present in London, such as the restaurant industry.
However, if the authorities are not victim-focused when targeting these establishments,
those working in the restaurant sector will simply be pushed into working in more
dangerous illegal sectors, following these raids and inspections.
The trafficking and sex grooming of children
The increase in investigations and media attention on the grooming and sex trafficking of
British children has perhaps put into focus the disproportionate emphasis we have had on
the trafficking of migrant sex workers in brothels. These cases of exploitation were taking
place much closer to home, in local takeaways, small hotels and homes in our streets. I have
found, and also been told of, similar cases that go back decades, and yet this issue has been
ignored year after year. Now it is the issue of the moment, but we are still stuck on the
stereotypes propagated by the cases we have heard about.
The issue of white British girls in care being exploited by Pakistani gangs is a problem. But it
is what is not in the data that should grab our attention. British black and minority ethnic
girls, boys, and white middle-class children can also be victims of grooming and this and their
use of online media which often allows this grooming to take place, needs to also be
registered and responded to.
Boys are a particular group I have chosen to highlight. We are handling the sexual abuse of
boys in a similar way to how we handled the sexual abuse of girls several decades ago. I have
heard concerns that boys’ experiences are often treated as little more than homosexual
lifestyle choices. But data I uncovered reveals that the percentage of male victims in all
sexual exploitation cases in London has jumped from 3% to 13% from 2010 to 2012.20 Yet
no money has been set aside by the Mayor for male victims of sexual abuse and a great deal
of official language referring to sexual abuse excludes the male experience of this crime.21
The authorities and those working with these young people are also turning a blind eye to
grooming. One social worker told me that a London council had refused to recognise that
children were being groomed and trafficked outside a number of schools in the borough.
20 Mayors question, Andrew Boff, 30/01/13
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Data I have uncovered reveals there are 9,055 children missing from care in 2012 in
London.22 That is an outrageous number. Equally outrageous was the fact that the
Metropolitan Police Service admitted that they could not provide me with data before this
date.23 They had only started measuring these figures following the high-profile cases in the
media. Why is that, when these cases were evident in reports, NGO intelligence, and
investigations for many years previously? Some stakeholders and NGOs were no doubt
telling the police about this problem for decades, but what became apparent through my
investigation was the disconnect and lack of trust between some NGOs and the police, and
how significantly this affects our response to human trafficking.
Trafficking and exploitation of homeless and vulnerable men
The recent high-profile case involving the trafficking of British and Eastern European
homeless and vulnerable men by the Connors family, a traveller network, has effectively
been treated as a one-off by the authorities. Yet evidence shows that this has been going on
for years24 and no doubt continues to do so. Furthermore, these trafficking cases tend to be
particularly brutal. Several men exploited by traveller networks have died in unclear
circumstances, and this human trafficking model has led to the first known case of organ-
harvesting in the UK.
I have heard consistent evidence that London is being used as a recruiting ground to find
many of these vulnerable men. Yet senior police in the Metropolitan Police Service still
regard this issue as largely based on “rumour,”25 and borough police are still turning victims
away. Yet Scandinavia has considered the UK a source country for this type of human
trafficking for half a decade.
The lack of support available for male victims when they are discovered is also a substantial
concern. The dearth of services in London results in there being a ludicrous cycle of
trafficked people being rescued or escaping, and then subsequently being re-trafficked. With
men, this is even more pronounced since the few services that do exist in London to
support victims of trafficking, after the Government’s statutory 45-day recovery and
reflection period provision, only assist women.
Trafficking and exploitation of Latin American victims
London has a large, expanding Latin American community which is still, in spite of
campaigns, not formally recognised across London26 as an ethnic group. As a result, there
are limited services in London to support them. Yet the trafficking and exploitation of Latin
Americans was cited as an emerging problem in London, particularly the exploitation of
22 Mayors question, Andrew Boff, 01/30/13. “The
Metropolitan Police Service has informed me that in 2012, there were 9,055 reported incidents of children
missing from care
23 “The Metropolitan Police Service is unable to provide data for 2010 and 2011, as it did not become
mandatory to record whether the child in question was in care until halfway through 2011” Mayors question,
Andrew Boff,01/30/13.
24 For example see: "Homeless man held as a slave". 27 May 1999. Echo-News
25 Anonymous quotation from a senior police source in the Metropolitan Police
26 With the exception of Southwark Council who have recognised Latin Americans as an ethnic group since
Shadow City | 14
Latin Americans in domestic servitude.27 At the same time, those working with Latin
American victims of trafficking felt that their cases, by being culturally specific, struggled to
be recognised as cases of trafficking by the police and even by other anti-trafficking NGOs.
One challenge is that many Latin American trafficking cases are informal and do not involve
large criminal networks. For example, the domestic exploitation of Latin Americans in Latin
American embassies and in the au pair industry is not highly organised and takes place in
very unregulated sectors. A blind-spot by the authorities towards human trafficking within
marriage, involving victims from Latin America and elsewhere, is also a concern.
Furthermore, I also discovered that two leading hotel chains were exploiting Latin
Americans working in the cleaning industry. They were, perhaps unknowingly, paying them
well below the minimum wage due to loopholes in their cleaning companies’ contracts.
Trafficking and exploitation of Vietnamese victims
For the last decade, increasing numbers of Vietnamese illegal migrants, particularly boys,
have been trafficked into the UK to work in nail bars and cannabis factories.28 Evidence I
have heard suggests the two trades are linked and that victims can sometimes move back
and forth between the two. Indicators suggest that victims of trafficking, “rescued” from
cannabis farms, often end up working for the same organised gangs in nail bars.
NGOs working with Vietnamese victims of trafficking are concerned about the British
authorities’ treatment of Vietnamese victims of trafficking. There have been 1,400 individuals
arrested for cannabis cultivation in 2011-13 and, of these, 63% were Vietnamese and 13%
were children.29 Yet Anti-Slavery International’s RACE in Europe Project30 found that, of the
cannabis cultivation court cases cited in the media between 2011-13 involving Vietnamese
adults, 130 had trafficking indicators.
Raids on cannabis farms are currently often not victim-focused. Instead, they lead to many
child victims of trafficking being prosecuted for drug cultivation; yet the traffickers who
manage the farms emerge unscathed, with not one receiving a conviction since 2009.31
Between January and August 2013, ten potential cases of human trafficking were found
involving cannabis cultivation in London – two fifths of whom were children32. In light of the
large number of raids on cannabis farms,33 the small number of victims found could suggest
27 Worryingly, recent UKHTC data does not cite any potential cases of trafficking from Latin America in spite
of an increase reported to me by the UK Border Force at Heathrow as well as by a number of NGOs. See
data provided to us by the UKHTC. Appendix 2.
28 Between January and August 2013, Vietnam was found to be the third largest source country of human
trafficking to London. 33 victims were identified. Ten potential cases of human trafficking were found involving
cannabis cultivationtwo fifths of whom were children. Data provided to us by the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
29 Data provided by a stakeholder in the Anti-Slavery International’s RACE in Europe Project
30 ibid
31 Two stakeholders working with Vietnamese victims told us they knew of no convictions in 2013. See also “To ask Her
Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of the problem of trafficking of Vietnamese children,
in the light of no convictions for the trafficking of Vietnamese children since 2009 despite Vietnamese children
accounting for a quarter of all referrals of child trafficking.” April 2013. The CPS said they did not have this
type of data available.
32 See Appendix 2.
33 Mayoral question, Andrew Boff, 22/05/13, No 1755/2013. There were 1,133 reported cannabis cultivation
offences in 2011/12 and 1,008 in 2012 up to May 13.
Shadow City | 15
that large numbers of children found on these raids are being overlooked and criminalised,
rather than recognised as victims. A disproportionate number of Vietnamese children are
missing from care in the UK and evidence suggests that, altogether, Vietnamese children are
being remarkably let down by our system.
It took 21 Chinese cockle pickers to drown at Morecambe Bay in 2004 for action to be
taken to regulate and protect those in the agricultural sector. It took half a dozen sex
grooming cases involving hundreds of girl victims for the authorities to take notice in the
last two years. It should not take such extreme circumstances or national scandals in the
media to provoke a response to the other cases of trafficking, exploitation and abuse I have
cited in this report. Some of those working with victims of exploitation have been trying to
warn the authorities for years. Indeed many of those I have spoken to for this report are
still trying to alert the authorities to similar cases across London, but their concerns too
often fall on deaf ears. The Mayor must call on all London boroughs to recognise this
problem. At present, “gangs are more organised than local authorities.”34 My
recommendations include the following:
The Mayor must set up London Regional Human Trafficking Groups so that we have
a genuine multi-agency approach to human trafficking. This approach can start to
tackle the core reasons behind our failure to protect those being exploited. This
group should act as a catalyst to improve cross-intelligence between NGOs and the
police and the boroughs. At present there appears to be a disconnect between
several NGOs, statutory services and the authorities, to the huge detriment of
victims of abuse in London.35 These groups should also help to prevent the
Metropolitan Police Service from working in silos and help promote more long-term
approaches, which are currently hampered in part by a target culture in the police
and by the constant churn of senior police officers.
MOPAC should use these groups to collect new, transparent London data on human
trafficking, which includes data contributions from NGOs, not just the authorities.
Only then can we begin to gather a clear picture of what is going on in London.
Having a firm Mayoral policy on human trafficking without this data is misguided.
Male victims are absent from the Mayor’s policy on trafficking and they also lack
many of the support services provided to female victims in London. MOPAC must
have a trafficking policy in place that includes men as more than simply perpetrators.
Frontline staff need effective training on human trafficking. Identification is one of the
key ways to protect victims of trafficking and discourage traffickers; but at present
the majority of those coming into contact with victims, such as social workers,
teachers, NHS staff and housing officers, know little about trafficking indicators or
how to refer cases on.
Borough police struggle to recognise victims of trafficking or circumstances where
they might stumble across them. Special points of contact (SPOCs) for human
trafficking need to be established in every borough’s police force to start to rectify
this problem.
34 Interview with Andy Elvin, CFAB, 2013
35 Indeed the Trafficking Unit receive “approximately 45 per cent of the victims [are] referred to them by
NGO's” Mayors Question Time, Andrew Boff, 22/05/13
Shadow City | 16
Any proactive work to target human trafficking or exploitation must be victim-
focused. At present I am reluctant to push for certain proactive work by the police
because I believe vulnerable people are more likely to suffer than be rescued as a
result. Traffickers nonetheless continue to evade the police and criminal justice
When victims look for help, they often approach those in their own community. Yet
there is limited communication with many communities in London to highlight
trafficking indicators and how victims of trafficking can gain assistance. We need
more effective community engagement – setting up police contacts in religious
establishments is a good start.
London effectively subsidises areas outside of London with their attempts to curb
human trafficking. The Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Trafficking Unit, in the
Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command, are overstretched, yet support
other forces. The Mayor should therefore campaign for other forces across the UK
to set up anti-trafficking units themselves. The Mayor should also call for the
Gangmasters Licensing Authority to extend its remit so that it targets exploitative
sectors in London, as well as those outside it.
The UK is used as a transit country into the rest of Europe by Nigerian traffickers.
Exit checks and closer scrutiny of visa applications are necessary if this is to be
Shadow City | 17
Human Trafficking in London
Human trafficking36 is a topic that is increasingly on the agenda. It is regularly cited as
modern day slavery and is considered to be one of the most scandalous crimes taking place
in the UK. While politicians are willing to produce much rhetoric about the evils of this
heinous crime, victims and those who work with victims of trafficking are continually
frustrated at the lack of constructive action to tackle the problem.
A large amount of human trafficking in the UK is based or goes through London. As a
London Assembly Member, I became increasingly concerned that there was a significant
amount of human trafficking in London, taking place under the very noses of the authorities,
yet I did not feel the authorities had much awareness of these crimes or how to deal with
When I saw potential evidence of labour trafficking in Hackney I anonymously reported it to
a passing PCSO. His response was to casually recommend I, as a resident, look into it.
When I told senior police, working in human trafficking, that I had found evidence that
trafficking may be relatively unorganised and informal, and taking place in residential areas in
homes, I was told this was unlikely to be the case as trafficking almost always became large-
scale organised crime due to greed. When I met a victim of trafficking - who had been
drugged and forced to sell sex – who had managed to escape, she revealed that the
authorities had not helped her to escape at all; yet now that she was a migrant working as a
sex worker in Westminster, the main threat to her existence were the authorities
Trafficking myths
My research suggests that trafficking is not what many people imagine it to be. Barely any
trafficked victims are padlocked or physically restrained. Most of them are in some way seen
as ‘complicit’37 in their circumstances and are restrained by more subtle control
mechanisms.38 Many - indeed I believe the majority of trafficked victims in London - are not
in the formal sex industry39 and victims are not necessarily predominantly female and are
not always from Eastern Europe or South East Asia. Yet these are the stereotypes often
peddled to us. Worryingly, these are the stereotypes that authorities almost invariably
36 According to the United Nations definition, human trafficking can be understood as a process by which
people are recruited in their community and exploited by traffickers using deception and/or some form of
coercion to lure and control them. There are three distinct elements of this crime: the act, the means and the
purpose. All three elements must be present to constitute a trafficking in persons offence, although each
element has a range of manifestations. UN Global Report on Trafficking in Persons, 2012
37 Nonetheless worth noting that “Due to the high levels of deception and coercion used by traffickers, many
victims have no real choice in their trafficking and eventual exploitation but are often perceived to be in some
way complicit in their circumstances” Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop, Consultant & Writer Specialising in Women
and Child Rights Advocacy, in written evidence, 2013
38 For example the threat of violence, threats made against family members in the country of origin,
confiscation of passports, mind control such as Juju.
39 Mai N (2009) ‘Migrant Workers in the UK Sex Industry Final Policy-Relevant Report’ ESR
Shadow City | 18
expect to find. Indeed, the Mayor’s Police and Crime strategy currently refuses to see
trafficking as anything other than an issue that falls under Violence against Women and
Girls.40 In doing so, victims are being let down. Frontline staff need to have that direction
and basic information at their fingertips to be able to spot the signs and know how to
Yet human trafficking cannot – or, at least, should not - be generalised. My hope is that this
report will help us to move away from the standard views on human trafficking and from a
view that the authorities’ trafficking response can be a one-size-fits-all model. Each type of
human trafficking is unique to a time, place and ethnicity. Each type of trafficking needs to
be dealt with and understood in a different way. The current domestic exploitation of
African children in homes is very different to the labour exploitation of homeless men in the
construction trade or the exploitation of Chinese waiters in restaurants. Moreover, such is
the fluidity of human trafficking models,41 in a few years Chinese or African trafficking
models may fit a very different paradigm. One year victims may fit one paradigm of
exploitation and ethnicity; the following year this paradigm could be turned on its head. I am
concerned that this fluidity is also not being registered.
Furthermore, exploitation is everywhere – in the nail bars one visits, in the builders’ teams
knocking on our doors offering construction work, and in the ordinary homes housing
cannabis factories or children exploited in domestic servitude or women trafficked by
‘marriage’ to be sex slaves. We all need to raise our awareness and ensure all communities
have the tools to respond accordingly. Human trafficking is not some new phenomenon but
one that has been occurring in various guises for centuries.42 Nor is it black and white.
Victims may have been “willing” criminals43 in parts of the process, for example in the illegal
profession they carry out, or in their use of forged identity papers, which can then reinforce
their vulnerability at the point of destination; or they may even become traffickers
themselves after paying off their debt bondage. Likewise, traffickers comprise vast networks
and come in many forms as various links in a vast chain, from close family or community
members to organised criminal gangs. In some cases, traffickers may believe they are
genuinely helping those they victimise by receiving payment for sending someone off “to a
better life.”
40 The Mayor’s The Way Forward 2010-13,
41 For example, a UNODC Report, Trafficking in Person to Europe for sexual exploitation wrote, Turkey,
Uzbek and Turkmen women seem to be replacing the Russians and Ukrainians. Similarly, in Spain the increase
of Paraguayan and Brazilian trafficking victims appears to have compensated for the decrease in trafficking from
Colombia. This suggests that human trafficking rings may react to changes in traditional origin countries, such
as increased awareness among potential victims, stringent law enforcement action or improved livelihood”
42 For example, see an illustration of the sex trafficking boyfriend model in Arthur Koestler’s Scum of the Earth
43 “Trafficking victims almost inevitably commit crimes, from the use of illegal identity papers, to criminal acts
which their traffickers coerce them into, such as cannabis farming in the UK. In a positive move, The Council
of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings 2005[8]… has been updated with a 2011
European Union Directive[9]. This broadens the scope of trafficking victims to include coerced criminal
activities” Human trafficking and international law by Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop, 2013
Shadow City | 19
This report
My last report, Silence on Violence, noted that a lot of money was being made available to
tackle trafficking.44 But it focused in on the wrong places, leading to minimal results and to
most victims continuing to fall below the radar, particularly West African victims. This
report will examine how West African human trafficking currently manifests itself. It will
also investigate other types of more hidden forms of human trafficking that take place in
closed networks. These include the trafficking of Chinese, Latin American and Vietnamese
victims, British children including boys, and homeless men. While examining these victim
types I intend to highlight some of the key concerns and recommendations I have heard
from experts on how to tackle trafficking more generally. While I have chosen to focus on
some of those victim groups I believe are being overlooked, what is clear is that trafficking
and traffickers exist in every community, religion, class, and gender. The fact that we may
not know about some of these cases does not mean they are not happening.
This report will also air a variety of different views and interpretations of trafficking, some of
which I believe have worryingly been stifled. There has been a lack of transparency by both
the authorities and those who work to support victims of trafficking, the so-called
“trafficking rescue industry”,45 about some of the contrasting views on trafficking. Yet this
may explain why there is so much disagreement about how to tackle human trafficking. The
eradication of human trafficking is presented as a black and white issue that we must all
support; but, in fact, the differences between views needs to be examined before any
agreement can be made on the correct way forward.
The term “trafficking”
I have heard horrific cases that have shocked me to the core: One trafficking survivor told
me her own parents had sold her into violent pornography where she was forced to watch
other children tortured to death; I heard of men being brutally beaten to a pulp and starved
for weeks on end; I heard of migrant women repeatedly trafficked with breast implants filled
with cocaine, put in each time without anaesthetic. At the other end of the spectrum there
are migrant sex workers or restaurant workers, working in exploitative conditions by
‘Western’, and indeed international human rights, standards, but who are content with their
life choices and do not want the interference of NGOs or authorities, many of whom
nonetheless believe firmly, and may have correctly identified, that these are victims of
Meanwhile there are those who question the entire belief that trafficking exists. They feel it
is peddled by the trafficking ‘rescue industry’ or by Governments who use the debate to
control migratory movement. There are also valid reasons why the authorities or even the
NGOs themselves may not always want to take a victim-centred approach to trafficking. A
human trafficking ‘victim’ may want the opportunity to work in London even though they
will experience exploitation and abuse, and so will not want the interference of NGOs or
authorities, who rightly believe that there should not be two tiers of rights in the UK and
wish to end their abuse. Meanwhile the Government has limited resources and needs to
ensure its system is not abused by people consenting to come over here to work illegally
44 MPA report: Metropolitan Police Service Human Trafficking response, Report: 7; 28 Jan2010: “CO14 has
successfully bid for £600,000 funding for 2010/12 from the GOL Migration Impact Fund to support the
Olympic boroughs in relation to victims trafficked for sexual exploitation.”
45 This is a term coined by Dr Laura Agustin, author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the
Rescue Industry. The rescue industry refers to NGOs, Intergovernmental Organisations (IGOs) etc.
Shadow City | 20
under what we deem as exploitive conditions. While I believe the Government does focus
too much on the immigration side of this crime to the detriment of the human rights of
these victims - for example by forcing migrant domestic workers to stay with their
employee under the new Overseas Domestic Worker Visa regime – I believe there are
problems with our borders and that traffickers are exploiting these too easily.
Weaknesses at borders and in consulates; weaknesses in the training of frontline staff who
are confronted by victims but fail to recognise them; and weaknesses in the support offered
to victims once they are identified were all consistently highlighted to me in this
investigation, reinforcing my motivation to write this report. I hope this report provides a
little more clarity on the varied and more hidden nature of trafficking that exists; but I also
hope it highlights the grey areas and lack of clarity that surround this issue. There are
bigger questions about immigration, poverty, gender, multiculturalism, life choices, supply
and demand, and international cooperation that shade the decisions we make on human
Shadow City | 21
Background to the research in this report
The approach to trafficking during the Olympics
In the run up to the Olympics, there was a wave of apprehension from the media, NGOs
and leading Parliamentarians46 that a huge number of trafficked victims – specifically women -
would be brought to the UK. This view mirrored attitudes prior to other international large
sporting events from the last decade.47
However, in spite of the Home Office and Ministers finally stating that there was insufficient
evidence to suggest that there would be an increase in trafficking, 48 the Met secured an
additional £500,000 to tackle a possible increase in trafficking in the five Olympic boroughs
in the run up to the 2012 Olympics.49
Trafficking can take a vast variety of forms - from a Nigerian girl working in domestic
servitude, to a Vietnamese boy working in a cannabis farm, to a homeless man working for a
traveller family as a builder. However, the view that the victims, trafficked into the UK for
the Olympics, would be migrant women and girls who would then be used for sexual
services was prevalent.50
Therefore, considerable resource was used in the years running up to the Olympics in
raiding and visiting brothels, with the aim of discovering sex trafficking victims51. In
2010/2011, approximately 70% of the work carried out by SCD9’s trafficking and
prostitution unit, TPU, was “related to trafficking for sexual exploitation linked to the
brothel market in London.”52
I heard evidence from one source, who worked with trafficking victims, who interviewed
the police prior to the Olympics, who said that a senior police officer admitted that they
intended to use the hysteria before the Olympics around human trafficking to target
46 “Human traffickers are expected to step up efforts to smuggle women into Britain and force them to
become sex workers in the run-up to London 2012, the Leader of the House of Commons Harriet Harman
admitted today” “A report by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) published in July warned that the
Games could bring an increase in prostitution and sex trafficking”
47 For example, during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, it was predicted that 40,000 sex workers would
be trafficked into the country: ‘The Deputy Chairman of South Africa's Central Drug Authority (CDA) said last
week that it is feared 40,000 women will arrive in the country to work as prostitutes while the football World
Cup is taking place there in June and July.’
48 House of Commons, Thursday 8 September 2011, Oral Answers to Questions, Culture, Media and Sport
49 Please note that the MPS wrote to us and said it was in fact £500,000 not £600,000 as written below-: MPA
report, Metropolitan Police Service Human Trafficking response, Report: 7; 28 Jan2010: “CO14 has
successfully bid for £600,000 funding for 2010/12 from the GOL Migration Impact Fund to support the
Olympic boroughs in relation to victims trafficked for sexual exploitation.” Also, several east London Borough
police I spoke to said that their Boroughs had given them extra resources to tackle prostitution partly in light
of the media concern that trafficking would increase due to the Olympics.
50Olympics will make London a "magnet" for human trafficking unless ministers launch an urgent crackdown,
shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper warned today.” Evening Standard, 2011
51 Silence on Violence, Andrew Boff, 2012
52 Nov 2011 MQT -
Shadow City | 22
Results of the Olympics Trafficking approach
However, the extra resources put in and additional half a million pounds did little to find
additional victims. My research found that a year on year comparison of CRIS reports reveal
that there were four trafficking cases recorded in 2011 and similarly only four cases
recorded in 2012.53
During the 2012 Olympic period, between 1st July 2012 and 30th September 2012, Nigerian
victims accounted for the highest number of referrals of the 135 potential victims of
trafficking in London54. Only 20 of all 135 referrals identified in that period were identified
by the police. If, as I have consistently heard is the case, Nigerian victims are largely
exploited in residential environments, then this would explain why so few of these 135
trafficking cases were actually identified by police during this period, since their focus was on
finding human trafficking in brothels, while many Nigerian cases were hidden elsewhere.55
The Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking Unit’s56 success rate is improving year on year
since 2010.57In 2011 a total of 73 CRIS reports were recorded relating to a potential victim
of trafficking;58 but this led to a very small number of traffickers subsequently being
convicted.59 CPS London Data I acquired reveals that, of the cases flagged as human
trafficking referred by the police, there were only 11 convictions in 2010-11, 17 convictions
in 2011-12 and 18 convictions in 2012-13.60 Furthermore other figures, which show the
number of human trafficking offences charged and reaching a first hearing in a magistrate’s
court, have recently dropped significantly, from 64 cases in 2011-12 to only 14 in 2012/13.61
The police state, however, that they often convict people for offences around trafficking,
rather than trafficking per se, because of the level of evidence required for trafficking is so
high. For example, they state that traffickers may be convicted instead for crimes around
brothel-keeping. However, even the figures62 around brothel-keeping are not huge and no
doubt include non-trafficking related cases.
53 Mayoral question number 2483/2012; 19/09/2012
54 Data provided to us by the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
55 ibid
56 The Unit sits within the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command. It is commonly referred to as
SCD9 although this name has since changed to SC&O9 in 2012 and then to SC&O7 in 2013. For this report I
will use the unofficial term ‘Human Trafficking Unit’ to identify this police team.
57 MOPAC Challenge data: In 2007/08 32 offences found; 68 offences found in 2011/12; 2012/13 447 ( a
557.4% rise although this relates to one specific 2 year investigation with Polish authorities.)
58 MQT, Andrew Boff, 19/09/12
59 Recent conviction data reveals, nationally in England and Wales, that the number of convictions on a
principal offence basis for 2011 was 8. Human Trafficking IDMG Report 2012,. This is a reduction since
previous years: In 2005, there were 12 traffickers convicted for trafficking; in 2006 there were 21; in 2007
there were 23; in 2008 there were 24; in 2009 there were 25; and in 2010 there were 16 traffickers convicted
for the offence of trafficking. (Hansard 20 February 2012: Column 512W; Hansard 19 June 2012: Column
60 See Appendix 1
61 Ibid
62 In 2011, there were 10 sentences for keeping a brothel, 4 sentences for inciting prostitution for gain, four
sentences for controlling prostitution for gain and three for trafficking into the UK for sexual exploitation and
one sentence for trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation.
Exploits-June-2013.pdf-da8819.pdf MOPAC’s Report, Capital Exploits: A Study of
Prostitution and Trafficking in London; Julie Bindel, Ruth Breslin and Laura Brown
Shadow City | 23
NGOs, working with victims, say that the trafficking victim figures available are “just the tip
of the iceberg”63 and both NGOs and police accept that the number of convictions remains
minimal. Yet there does appear to be a continuous and remarkable disparity between the
huge numbers of victims cited each year in Government and NGO reports - ranging from
one million to 27 million64- and the small number of victims recognised as victims of
This suggests that either trafficking is not taking place on as large a scale as suggested or,
more worryingly, that the way we are tackling trafficking is ultimately inadequate.
Human Trafficking – the definition
Human trafficking is a term which is frequently used in both professional and mainstream
vernacular, yet its meaning remains elusive and contentious.
A variety of conceptual interpretations of trafficking exist: from being synonymous with
prostitution; or as the smuggling in of illegal migrants; to being a modern form of slavery; to
having a human rights focus; or to be revolving around transnational organised crime.65
When the UN was trying to establish a definition of trafficking, the Coalition Against
Trafficking in Women argued that “all children and the majority of women in the sex
trade”66 should be considered “victims of trafficking”. Yet the Netherlands submitted a
definition of trafficking that made no reference to prostitution or to sexual exploitation.
One academic, Dr Lee, stated that, “These approaches67 may coexist, overlap and change
over time, or they may contradict each other… Trafficking will be approached differently
depending on whether it is considered a problem of illegal migration, prostitution, or
organised crime68.”
Human Trafficking is an internationally defined term. The United Nations Palermo Protocol
2000 is both the first and most used definition and involves “the recruitment,
63 Quote used by a charity working with trafficking victims as well as by Thames Reach in regard to the
number of homeless and vulnerable men trafficked.
64 There are figures of less than 1 million back in 2004, claimed by the US Government : ‘600,000 to 800,000
people are trafficked worldwide each year (U.S.
government Also “There are significant discrepancies in
international estimates, with regularly cited estimates of numbers ranging from 2.5 million (International
Labour Office, 2008), to 12.3 million (Hansard 2010), to as high as 27 million (Bales, 2000).” Quote from Prof
Anderson, in. Us and Them? The dangerous politics of immigration control, Oxford: Oxford University Press
65 This is described by Dr Maggy Lee, in Chapter One, Contested Definitions of Human Trafficking, Trafficking
and Global Crime Control
66 Referenced from The New Statesman’s The Myth of Trafficking by Brendan O’Neill,
67 “(1) as a modern form of slavery; (2) as an exemplar of the globalisation of crime; (3) as a problem of
transnational organised crime;
(4) as synonymous with prostitution; (5) as a migration problem; and (6) as a human rights challenge.”
68 Dr M. Lee ,in Chapter One, Contested Definitions of Human Trafficking, Trafficking and Global Crime
Shadow City | 24
transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the [bullet points
threat or use of force or
other forms of coercion,
of abduction,
of fraud, of deception,
of the abuse of power or
of a position of vulnerability ( ‘a situation in which the person concerned has no real
or acceptable alternative but to submit to the abuse involved’) or
of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person
having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation."69
Interpretations of coercion, abuse of power or exploitation are not in themselves clearly
defined.70 This is in spite of the fact that all these terms are regularly used in a variety of
different contexts. For example, exploitation has recently been used to describe the
current ‘internship’ programmes in the UK.71 It is also used to describe the horrific case
where homeless men worked for 19 hours a day for no money and were beaten and
starved to the point of having broken ribs and scurvy.72
In the Palermo description, consent becomes irrelevant if any of the above bullet points are
involved. While I have been told73 that modern slavery is someone controlled by someone
else using the threat of violence, this threat can be replaced by something less tangible than
a clear threat of violence. Indeed, stakeholders working with trafficking victims referred to
the fact that victims could be controlled by simply breaking down their sense of self-esteem
and independence.
Central to the tenets of human trafficking is the “position of vulnerability” caused – as the
CSJ Report, It Happens Here, recently highlighted - by “a lack of job opportunities, age …
fostering a romantic relationship, developing personal dependence, or even forcing drug
abuse to create an addiction.”74 The range of severity potentially implied between having
limited vocational options and being force-fed drugs is in itself notable.
Professor Bridget Anderson has said the risk of such an absence of concrete notions means
trafficking relies on an idea of harm that is “so vague as to be platitudinous”.75
70The definition of trafficking is clearly set out in a number of international documents. However, there are
no common definitions of key component concepts, such as ‘recruitment’, ‘deception’ and ‘coercion’. Because
of this, correct identification of trafficking victims necessarily relies on a careful and open-minded
understanding of how such a person’s lived experience may relate to these terms, particularly where
information is scarce trafficked people may have limited information about their traffickers, the routes they
took and the time they spent in different situations.” The UK’s Response to Human Trafficking Fit for
Purpose, Cherti, Pennington, Galos, IPPR
71 Unpaid Internships: Exploitation and Discrimination by Francesca Mitchel, Huffington Post,
72 Family ‘exploited homeless’ on Greenacre sites, 18 April 2012
73 Evidence from Andrew Wallis, CEO of Unseen, at City Hall, 2013
74 It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice Report, 2013
75 Interview with Dr Anderson, 2012
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Anti-Slavery International and the Latin American Women’s Rights Services (LAWRS) told
me that because of the confusion around the meaning of trafficking and slavery, many
victims of “trafficking” or exploitation – being seen as ‘lesser’76 victims - are not recognised
as requiring support when found by the authorities. They are therefore often sent back to
their home countries. This puts them at even greater risk due to the fact that they
undoubtedly will owe their traffickers a debt that they may not be able to pay back with the
even lower salaries in their own country; this therefore makes them even more vulnerable
to being trafficked or re-trafficked back into the UK.
Where are the victims?
If, as was suggested in the 2012 report77 by the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on
human trafficking, the number of people trafficked into the UK is more than double what
official figures suggest, then the question arises: Where are we failing to look?
The ‘residential’ victims
Criticisms of the focus on organised criminal networks
The Metropolitan Police Service failed to find a large number of human trafficking victims in
the run up to the Olympics. Between January and August 2013, the Metropolitan Police
Service identified only 36 of the 389 cases identified as potential victims of human trafficking
in London to the Government’s UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC).78
If there are large numbers of women being exploited sexually, filling the centres run by
NGOs, but they are largely not being found on raids in the open sex industry then the
question is, “Where are they?”
My last report, Silence on Violence, quoted one charity who felt that the Metropolitan Police
Service’s work was ‘pigeon-holed’79 and centred too much attention on tackling organised
crime and disrupting networks. A number of organisations felt that, as a result, police were
missing those victims outside of this model. For example, one service provider we spoke to
said that the trafficked victims in their centres suggested that some victims, such as those
from Western Africa, who made up their largest group of victims, were not exploited by
organised crime networks but by individuals such as boyfriends, family members or family
friends.80 However, when I suggested this to police, they informed me that it always
becomes organised because traffickers inevitably become greedy.81
76 Interview with Carolina Gottardo, from the Latin American Women's Rights Service (LAWRS), City Hall,
77 First annual report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, October 2012
78 Data provided to us by the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
79 Silence on Violence, Boff, 2012
80 ibid
81 ibid
Shadow City | 26
The Metropolitan Police used to state that they only “undertake trafficking investigations
where there are clear links to an Organised Criminal Network.” 82 However, more recently
I was reassured by senior officers that they do look into all types of trafficking cases.
However, the UN definition states that an “Organized criminal group” consists only of a
“group of three or more persons, existing for a period of time and acting in concert with
the aim of committing one or more serious crimes or offences established in accordance
with this Convention, in order to obtain, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material
benefit.”83 This is not however what the authorities or many NGOs understand by the term.
However, the police’s possible reluctance to look into new areas was explained by one
officer in the CSJ report, It Happens Here, who stated, “Generally the country doesn’t want
trafficking and we’re at a stage where they’re trying to reduce the cost of policing by 25 per
cent, so you don’t want to be finding new problems.’84
One stakeholder told us that “police use the ‘organised crime’ term so they can obtain
financial resources – it’s seen as a high priority if it comes under ‘organised’ crime.”85 This
apparent lack of transparency around the preoccupation over ‘organised’ crimes possibly
threatens clear and effective action to tackle trafficking in all its forms. It also risks forming
a hierarchy of victims of trafficking, dependent on the level of criminal organisation rather
than abuse involved.
Following the publication of Silence on Violence,86 Government data87 recognised that
Nigerian victims of trafficking were potentially the largest victim group88 and a number of
leading UK charities89 supporting trafficking victims confirmed that West African victims
were largely exploited in residential surroundings, while Eastern Europeans victims were
largely exploited in public brothels.
Data from the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC),90 alongside data from
one organisation supporting victims of trafficking, suggested that the number of victims from
some Eastern European countries was decreasing while the number of African victims was
steadily rising. Therefore, there is increasing evidence that victims may not always fit the
large-scale organised model and that police need to change tactics to seek out less
organised trafficking taking place.
82 Specialist Crime Directorate 9: update report. Report: 8 Date: 13 October 2011
83United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, G.A. Res. 25, annex I, U.N. GAOR,
55th Sess., Supp. No. 49, at 44, U.N. Doc. A/45/49 (Vol. I) (2001), entered into force Sept. 29, 2003.
84 It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice Report, 2013
85 Anonymous source, 2013
86 Silence on Violence, Boff, 2012
87 First annual report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, October 2012
89 For example, a number of NGOs, including the Government’s lead anti-trafficking agency, The Salvation
90 See Appendix 2. Data provided to us by the UKHTC for 2013. See Appendix 2.
Shadow City | 27
Data provided by an NGO working with victims
of trafficking91
Lithuanian trafficking victims
Nigerian trafficking victims
Treating trafficking as a ‘transnational organised crime’ has faced broader criticisms as well.
Some academics have questioned the ‘alarmist interpretation92’ of ‘transnational threats’
posed by organised crime groups, suggesting that the idea of the existence of transnational
organised crime and its dominance in human trafficking is artificial.93 Instead, they said we
should break down these contrived models into legitimate and semi-legitimate groups, such
as into private businesses and job recruitment agencies.94
Women and sex worker focus
Prioritising sex trafficking
For some organisations, whose philosophy was that all sex work is exploitation, the uptake
of the trafficking agenda presented the perfect opportunity to highlight their concerns.
These NGOs were some of the first organisations to significantly highlight the awful
trafficking-related abuses of migrant women in sex work.
But in doing so, some individuals who have worked with other types of trafficking victims
feel these organisations managed to consume the initial trafficking debate. Certainly it is true
that the established view of a trafficking victim is that of a sexually exploited female. Yet an
ILO report in 2012 estimated that, worldwide, less than a quarter of those in coerced
labour are involved in forced sexual exploitation.95 I was advised by one stakeholder on
writing this report to not “get sucked into just looking at sex work and brothels. It is a
serious problem but may not be the majority of cases; what about domestic indentured
servants, what about exploited labour with debt bondage working long hours at way below
minimum wage?96
Raiding brothels
A number of stakeholders felt that there was a disproportionate amount of effort to find
female sex-trafficked victims, rather than male victims and female and male victims of
domestic and labour trafficking.
91 Kindly provided by anonymous NGO working with trafficking victims
92 Dr Lee on Taylor and Jamieson, 1999
93 Hobbs, 1998; and Sheptycki, 2003. Cited by Dr M. Lee in Chapter One, Contested Definitions of Human
Trafficking, Trafficking and Global Crime Control
94 (Ruggiero, 1997; Kyle and Liang, 2001; Human Rights Watch, 2002b Cited by Dr M. Lee in Chapter One,
Contested Definitions of Human Trafficking, Trafficking and Global Crime Control
95 Summary of the ILO 2012 Global Estimate of Forced Labour”Three out of every 1,000 people worldwide
are in forced labour today. 18.7 million (90 %) are exploited in the private economy, by individuals or
enterprises. Of these, 4.5 million (22 per cent) are victims of forced sexual exploitation and 14.2 million (68
per cent) are victims of forced labour exploitation in economic activities, such as agriculture, construction,
domestic work or manufacturing.”
96 Evidence from Westminster City Councillor Ian Rowley, at City Hall, 2013
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The former MP Denis MacShane stated that there were 25,00097 prostitutes trafficked into
the UK for sexual exploitation and the Poppy Project found that 81 per cent98 of prostitutes
working in London in 2004 were foreign nationals “a large proportion of [whom] are likely
to have been trafficked into the country”.99 However, both figures have received substantial
criticism due to the lack of evidence supporting these statements and the lack of evidence
found following the proactive policing of brothels, which resulted from these claims.100
Effectively, migrant sex workers and victims of sex trafficking were being conflated.101 In
spite of the lack of evidence about trafficking being widespread in brothels, the above
percentages are used and referenced in the Mayor’s The Way Forward 2010-13102 as a
guiding evidential basis for its policy on human trafficking. And this is still a prevalent
opinion. As recently as 29th March 2013 the French Women's Rights Minister Najat
Belkacem-Vallaud stated that “90 per cent of [all prostitutes] are victims of human
There are four concerns associated with this.
First, this emphasis on human trafficking taking place within prostitution has led to a police
focus on brothels.104 This is problematic as interviews I have had with a number of charities
who work with trafficking victims cite the fact that many female victims of sex trafficking are
not in brothels. Police data I have uncovered reveals that six sevenths of Nigerian victims –
the second largest victim group after Romanians – were not found through brothel raids
and that, overall, one third of all victims in the Metropolitan Police Service’s data were not
through the Metropolitan Police Services Human Trafficking Unit’s brothel-related work.105
Second, although the media depicts victims and perpetrators of trafficking in straightforward
terms, most victims of sex trafficking do not fit the rigid paradigm of a woman forced to
work in prostitution against her will. The woman may be coerced into prostitution and at
risk physically, however she may view her controller as her boyfriend and only comprehend
her exploitative conditions several years down the line.106 Hence there is a risk that police
could damage the relationship with that potential victim of trafficking by raiding a brothel
97 Davies, Nick (20 October 2009). "Prostitution and traffickingthe anatomy of a moral panic". The Guardian
(London). Retrieved 1 May 2010.
98 Sex in the City, 2003, report by the Poppy Project, which surveyed London prostitutes working in flats
99 Written evidence from the Poppy Project to the House of Commons. Home Affairs Committee 2009, on
the Trade in Human Beings
100 Dr Nick Mai’s research suggests that very few women in brothels are trafficked in London: “the large
majority of interviewed migrant workers in the UK sex industry are not forced nor trafficked” Migrant
workers in the UK sex Industry” Dr Mai, London Metropolitan University
Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs and Sastrawidjaja, Sex Workers Project at the
Urban Justice Center and demonstrated in a recent article “Prostitution now being treated as human sex
trafficking in many cases” By Martha Irvine, The Associated Press 09/03/2013
102 The Mayor’s The Way Forward 2010-13,
104 Silence on Violence, Boff, 2012
105 Data in addendum to Silence on Violence, Boff, 2012
106 See Prof. Nick Mai (2009) ‘Migrant Workers in the UK Sex Industry Final Policy-Relevant Report’ ESR
Shadow City | 29
and, for example, threatening her with deportation. Therefore, when she realises that she is
being exploited and is in a dangerous situation, she may be dissuaded from going to the
Third, migrants not involved in trafficking are also vulnerable under the current policy
around policing trafficking in brothels. Because brothels are illegal in British law and
managing one is considered evidence of exploitation, and because the charge of trafficking is
vague, as discussed above, there do appear to be a number of cases where migrants, or sex
workers themselves, who have helped arrange for willing sex workers to come over to
Britain, are found guilty of trafficking.107
Fourth, this focus on women and sex work could be seen to have been at the expense of
other victims of trafficking. Between 2007 and 2012, there were 512 decisions to prosecute
cases believed to involve trafficking for sexual exploitation. In comparison, there have been
15 decisions to prosecute offences of forced labour and servitude.108 Yet domestic and
agricultural exploitation counts for six of every 10 trafficking referrals in the UK.109
Ignoring Male victims
For the last decade there has been a focus predominantly on female sex trafficking within
the law and popular discourse. In 2002, the Home Office “claimed that victims were mainly
prostitutes and [so]…early legislation cast trafficking as being only to do with
The Palermo Protocol “to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially
Women and Children”111 is also clearly gendered and empathises women as more likely
victims; meanwhile the parallel Protocol against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air,
assumes that the subjects are male. Dr Jo Doezema writes, “Trafficked women are assumed
to be duped victims; while smuggled men are assumed to be knowing agents in their own
movement.”112 Indeed, when the UN was setting up early legislation around trafficking, the
Argentinian proposal “would have made it definitionally impossible for men to be
The previous Government gave the vast majority of its funding and chief responsibility for
the care of adult victims of human trafficking to the Poppy Project. While the Poppy Project
is lauded for the support it provides victims, it nonetheless only assists women.114 It is only
recently, under the present government, that the emphasis appears to have moved away
from female-specific services, giving the contract, instead, to an organisation working with
both men and women – the Salvation Army.
107 See case on page 9, UK sex trafficking convictions, Silence on Violence, Boff, 2012
108 First annual report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, 2012
109I worked in the sex trade; does that make me 'trafficked'?” Dr Magnanti Telegraph 18 October 2012
110 Us and Them?: The Dangerous Politics of Immigration Control By Prof. Bridget Anderson
112 Sex Slaves and Discourse Masters: The Construction of Trafficking by Dr Jo Doezema
113 Ibid
114 However, men were referred on to Migrant Help.
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The Salvation Army’s latest figures115 show that of 625 initial client assessment forms, 397
(64%) were female and 228 (36%) were male.116 Fraser Nelson wrote in the Telegraph that
Even though 84 per cent of trafficking prosecutions are for sex offences, the Salvation
Army found two male victims for every three women, suggesting that male slavery is being
dangerously overlooked.”117 Recent evidence to the Home Affairs Committee, in July 2013
also revealed that the Salvation Army had seen more cases of labour trafficking than sex
trafficking since 2011.118
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime is currently going through a restructure.
However, up to this point, trafficking in the Greater London Authority is dealt with by the
Violence against Women and Girls Team. Whether their future management structure will
counter in men and women who are not sex workers still remains to be seen. However, as
this report will examine, a large number of male victims exist. Indeed, the figures for male
victims may even at some point overtake the number of women being trafficked. Therefore
the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime cannot continue to ignore the plight of male
victims of human trafficking.
Focusing on foreign victims
Until the 2009 Coroners and Justice Act,119 there was no specific law to criminalise the
labour trafficking of British citizens. There is an argument that by definition by being a
migrant you are inevitably more vulnerable by being less familiar with your surroundings.
However, a more cynical line taken by a number of leading academics is to see anti-
trafficking measures as part of a “centuries old tradition of forcibly controlling the mobility
of the poor and marginalized” 120 which is detrimental to the interests of migrants by
denying them agency.
Dr Agustín feels people need to “question the idea of trafficking itself. The way it all began
was about mobility: the completely ordinary phenomenon everywhere in which people hear
about a job in a place they don’t live themselves and travel to get to it. Selling sex is one of
the paid occupations available…But now even the word migration has – almost –
disappeared. I say that because I believe policymakers have done and do this deliberately.”121
115 Support Needs of Male Victims of Human Trafficking: Research findings, June 2013
116 Meanwhile a report called Trafficking of Men A Trend Less Considered" looked at men and boys from
Belarus and Ukraine assisted by the IOM from 2004 to 2006 and found that they comprised 28.3 percent and
17.6 percent, respectively, of all victims.
fight-slave-trade.html Connors family case shows that Britain must fight slave trade by Fraser Nelson, 12 July
118 Data from July 2011-April 2013
119 - This made slavery, servitude and forced or
compulsory labour a specific criminal offence.
120 Professor Julia O’Connell Davidson, “New Slavery, Old Binaries: 'Trafficking', human rig Rights and the
State's Monopoly over the Control of Mobility” Human Trafficking Today, Human Security and Globalization,
Tokai University European Center, A SPIRIT Conference, February 14th, 2008http://www.u-
121 Border Crossing: Looking for sex-victims and sex workers by Dr Laura Agustín on her website, The Naked
Shadow City | 31
However in spite of a previous focus on migrant victims of trafficking, Government data is
increasingly recognising British victims. Between January and August 2013, there were ten
cases of potential victims of trafficking identified from the UK in London. This made the UK
the seventh largest source country of trafficking in London during this period.122
The data on victims
The data from the Salvation Army suggests that male victims and other victims in non-
organised trafficking circumstances may be being missed and that the resources spent on sex
trafficking is disproportionately large. As Anthony Steen stated, “Everybody says that there
are a tremendous number of trafficked women in Britain, but we have no idea of the
figures…The human trafficking centre in Sheffield … spends nearly £2 million a year, but we
ain’t got the numbers. We do not know how many people are involved. It is pure
guesswork and sensationalism when people talk about 4,000 to 6,000. The figure is probably
in the hundreds, not the thousands.”123 However, it is impossible to be sure either way as
there is inadequate overarching data124 to adequately get any verifiable grip of the
One police source said they felt charities regularly overestimated numbers to increase their
own resources. Meanwhile Westminster Councillor Ian Rowley said, “At one meeting one
woman involved in the trafficking arena claimed that there were over 500 brothels nearby
where trafficked women were working.”126 Yet when Councillor Rowley carried out a
report127 into the brothel industry in Westminster he found that a “minority of sex workers
are trafficked” and said we need to be careful of “wild claims based on no substantive
research or data.”128
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) states that “the lack of hard data,
combined with the fact that many commentators on trafficking repeat estimates derived
from interviews with officials, means that many of the statistics quoted are in (often large)
round numbers, are uncheckable and are frequently reiterated'.129 Yet the IOM then makes
the mistake of making up its own estimate. “In 1995, the IOM estimated the number at
500,000 annually to Western Europe alone.130However, Dr Doezema looked into this
claim, interviewing those in the IOM, and found that this estimate came from no actual
research. Nonetheless “the number 500,000 has gone on to live a life of its own in
newspaper reports. For example: ‘It is estimated that around 500,000 women have been
122 Data from the UKHTC. See Appendix 2
123 “I worked in the sex trade; does that make me 'trafficked'?” Dr Magnanti, Telegraph 18 October 2012
124 The Global Alliance Against Trafficking in Women notes that:"[W]hen statistics on trafficking are available,
they usually refer to the number of migrant or domestic sex workers, rather than cases of trafficking."
125As Dr Laura Agustin notes Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry. The
rescue industry refers to NGOs, Intergovernmental Organisations (IGOs) etc., “Most of the writing and
activism does not seem to be based on empirical research, even when produced by academics.”
126 Evidence from Westminster City Councillor Ian Rowley, at City Hall, 2013
127 Report by Westminster Sex Worker Task Group, Violence faced by Sex Workers in Westminster,
128 Evidence from Westminster City Councillor Ian Rowley, at City Hall, 2013
129 (IOM 2000: 31) Sex Slaves and Discourse Masters: The Construction of Trafficking, Dr Jo Doezema
130 (OSCE 1999: 7) ) Sex Slaves and Discourse Masters: The Construction of Trafficking, Dr Jo Doezema
Shadow City | 32
beaten or drugged into submission by pimps working in Europe's biggest organised crime
gang’ (The Mirror, Dublin, 04-07-2000).” 131
Just one case of human slavery is enough to make the problem very concerning. However,
overstating a problem does not actually help victims as resources put in the wrong places
can potentially harm them and also removes resources from other forms of exploitation.
UK data
While more estimated data is beginning to be published in the UK, this is also flawed.
ACPO’s highly publicised, police trafficking data132 stated that there were 2,600 female adult
victims of sex trafficking. Yet the latest IDMG report’s predicted total figure of all male and
female victims of trafficking across the board was “over 2,000”.133
Frank Field MP stated, at the end of 2012 after the first major IDMG publication of data on
trafficking, “The glaring failure of the Government’s report is the lack of accurate and
meaningful data.”134
Portugal is lauded for its human trafficking data collection model. It has established an
Observatory on Trafficking in Human Beings to address the gaps in data. Furthermore it
measures data in a far more comprehensive way than the UK with clear data breakdowns
on ethnicities, geographical contexts and those cases currently under investigation.135 This
model should be examined and ideally replicated in London and the UK.
Frank Field MP explained why having accurate, detailed information is crucial before we can
effectively tackle trafficking or even effectively work out how successfully we are currently
doing so.136
“Why do I raise these questions? The answer is pretty obvious. Our lack of data is a key
barrier to a more effective response. Much effort in combating human trafficking, or slavery,
has focused more on anecdote and sensationalism than on analysis of the problems. We
simply do not know to what extent industry in this country, or sections of industry, are
dependent on slaves to be viable or what the profit margins of using slaves are for those
firms and sectors of our economy.”137
131 Sex Slaves and Discourse Masters: The Construction of Trafficking, Dr Jo Doezema
132 Project Acumen -
133 First annual report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, 2012
134 December 2012, Westminster Hall,
135 See
136 “We need a much better analysis of what is happening within the various sectors where victims are
exploited, including explanations of rises in particular nationalities, of geographic distribution and of flows and
movement of the problem across the UK over time.” December 2012, Westminster Hall,
137 December 2012, Westminster Hall,
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Indeed, the media, and some politicians and organisations – some would say for the sake of
sensationalism and vested interests138 - have largely focused on prostitution and immigration.
Possibly, partly as a result of this, the authorities have similarly concentrated their efforts in
this area.
The other face of trafficking
Sex trafficking of British citizens
Recent trafficking cases that don’t fit the ‘foreign female sex-trafficked victim’ paradigm have
begun to earn media space. Indeed, despite the term “trafficking” implying movement,
international law defines trafficking by a person’s exploitation and not by their transit.139
The Rochdale case – where several white British teenagers from deprived or dysfunctional
backgrounds were targeted, bribed for sex and silenced from revealing severe abuse by
Pakistani men140 they met at takeaways – has led to heightened interest in cases involving the
grooming of British born girls. Although some of the traffickers were paid to supply
underage girls, the girls were not abused in public brothels but were passed around to be
raped by friends and family members of the traffickers.
Social Services, the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) all struggled to see this
case as a trafficking crime and, for several years, the victims and their parents’ pleas for help
were ignored.
Labour trafficking of British men
Another case that caught the public’s attention revolved around the story of a large number
of homeless British and Eastern European men who were forced into working for an Irish
traveller family called the Connors, who ran a patio and paving business in Leighton Buzzard.
The victims were malnourished, coerced into work and often physically abused.
However, although this had been going on for several decades, arrests were only made
recently following an investigation after the body of one of the ‘workers’ was discovered.
Also, revealingly, the arrests were made under very recent legal provisions implemented in
mid-2010141, created largely to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights,
which finally criminalised the holding of someone in slavery or servitude, or requiring them
to perform forced or compulsory labour, irrespective of whether they were a migrant or
138 Dr Laura Agustin’s views described in a book review of ‘Sex at the Margins: Migration, labour markets and
the rescue industryS TBC
139 Human Trafficking and International Law by Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop,
140 There was also one Afghan man involved in the sex trafficking ring. I have avoided using the word ‘Asian’ -
as they have been commonly referred to- due to concerns raised by other Asian groups.
141 Section 71 within the Coroners and Justice Act 2009,
Shadow City | 34
History repeating itself
These are not isolated or new cases. All the charities who deal with victims of trafficking
who I spoke to have stated they have seen numerous similar cases.
A similar case to the Rochdale case
In 2003, a similar case occurred involving Charlene Downe, a 14 year old girl from a ‘loving
[but] chaotic’142 family, who went missing. A police investigation revealed that she and “a
number of other girls” had been sexually abused by a group of men from “migrant
communities” who often worked in takeaways, in exchange for food.143 It was however
“more subtle than how most people think of child prostitution”.144 Police believe she was
murdered by someone linked to this abuse. Charlene’s mother was angry that her
daughter's death has barely been noticed outside Blackpool. “I often wonder, if she had been
from a posh family, and was having piano lessons, would they have tried harder to find
A similar case to the Connors case
The Connors labour trafficking case is the first of its type to go to court. Yet these cases
have been going on for decades. Twenty-two-year-old Oliver Hayre, who had worked for a
traveller family, died in a caravan fire in unclear circumstances in October 2005 in Sweden,
after complaining about being held against his will. His father, Mr Hayre, questioned why it
took so long for this issue to be publicised. “Why didn’t the story go national six years ago?”
he said. “Why didn’t the governments step in [then]?”146
This report
So if the servitude of homeless men and sexual exploitation of vulnerable girls – all fitting
under the legal term of ‘trafficking’ - has been going on, possibly for decades, how has this
been allowed to be kept off the main trafficking agenda? Why are the same ‘revelations’
about these victims being described every few years? Why do we then seem to forget about
These types of trafficking cases do not appear to be proactively targeted by police in the UK
and the issue has struggled to find its way into the criminal justice system. Yet the
seriousness of these types of crimes should be a cause for concern for all of us.
It is time for the Mayor and this Government to re-examine the entire trafficking debate?
What cases of trafficking are falling below the radar? Why are we not tackling these types of
trafficking cases effectively? Who, if anyone, is to blame? And what can we do to better
protect possible victims from this abuse?
142 Beyond the pleasure beach, By Julie Bindel, 30 May 2008
143 “Charlene was getting chips for a blow job.” Charlene’s mother in an interview. Beyond the pleasure beach, By Julie Bindel,
30 May 2008
144 Beyond the pleasure beach, By Julie Bindel, 30 May 2008
145 ibid
146 “Stamford dad’s call for crackdown on human traffickers” in the Rutland and Stamford Mercury , 30
September 2011
Shadow City | 35
Lawyers, Jackie Turner and Liz Kelly, wrotethe key to understanding the nature of human
trafficking and its organisation is an appreciation of the different contexts from which it
derives, the conditions that enable it to flourish, and the cultural and traditional practices in
which it remains embedded…”147 In this report I want to consider the above questions
while examining a variety of forms of human trafficking in these ‘cultural’ contexts.
Is there no such thing as “Trafficking”?
“Much of this information-work and scholarly research on trafficking is underpinned by the
assumption that human trafficking is a phenomenon whose ‘truth’ can be uncovered – who are the
traffickers and victims? How big is the problem? Exactly what type of exploitation is involved? In
practice, the answers to such questions are far from straightforward.” Dr Lee148
The challenge against sex trafficking
The new Chair of the House of Common’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on
Human Trafficking, Fiona Mactaggart MP, recently stated that trafficking takes place in
almost every brothel.149 However, Dr Nick Mai’s research suggests that very few women in
brothels are trafficked in London.150 Dr. Agustín's book, Sex at the Margins, states that many
‘social agents’ have vested interests in the trafficking ‘rescue industry’ and in creating a belief
that there are huge numbers of trafficking victims in the sex industry. As a result, they
depict all working-class migrant women who sell sex as passive victims of trafficking. Dr
Agustín felt that the fears around sex trafficking comprised little statistical evidence and
equated to a patronising view of migrants.
Some academics have noted how this discourse around women mirrors one that occurred
over 100 years ago when, in the late 19th century, there were fears about ‘white slavery’151
linked to concerns about European women increasingly migrating to South America to work
in prostitution. This ‘concern’ has been described as being “directly linked to European
disapproval of female migration”152 and their financial independence, as women became
increasingly visible as migrants – the so-called feminisation of migration. This led in 1904 to a
147 Trade Secrets - Intersections between Diasporas and Crime Groups in the Constitution of the Human
Trafficking Chain Jackie Turner* and Liz Kelly, London Metropolitan University, Department of Applied Social
Sciences, Ladbroke House
148 Dr Maggy Lee, in Chapter One, Contested Definitions of Human Trafficking, Trafficking and Global Crime
149 Fiona MacTaggart at the Human Trafficking Foundation, London, September 2013
150 “the large majority of interviewed migrant workers in the UK sex industry are not forced nor trafficked”
Migrant workers in the UK sex Industry, Dr Mai, London Metropolitan University
151 Discussed in ‘Loose Women or Lost Women? The re-emergence of the myth of 'white slavery' in
contemporary discourses of 'trafficking in women' by Dr Jo Doezema, Institute of Development Studies
University of Sussex, Brighton, UK, International Studies Convention Washington, DC, February 16 - 20, 1999
Gender Issues, Vol. 18, no. 1, Winter 2000, pp. 23-50.
152 Ibid, quote from Donna Guy (1991)
Shadow City | 36
ratified international agreement in Paris obliging Governments to monitor the movements of
those who assisted women in leaving the country for “an immoral life.”153
Therefore, while charities and organisations aim to and often succeed in assisting victims,
they have also garnered criticism. Dr Agustín’s research has led her to describe these
organisations as a "rescue industry" which infantalises women with their condescending
attitude whereby "victims become passive receptacles and mute sufferers who must be
saved, and helpers become saviours - a colonialist operation."154 We have thus replaced the
former cultural prejudice that illegal migrants are all criminals, with one where they are
either criminals or helpless victims with no sense of agency.
As well as accusations that the trafficking debate has colonial sentiments, there are also
claims of a “not-so-subtle undercurrent of sexism in the forced sex trafficking discussion.
Time and again, women who say they willingly entered sex work have their experiences
written off. This patronises women in ways that, frankly, would not happen to men.”155 On
the one hand, this focus on female victims can be seen as a positive step – authorities appear
to be prioritising the safety of women, where in the past their safety and concerns are
believed by some to have often been overlooked.156 On the other hand, this could appear to
be simply an extension of those patriarchal norms which require society to take an active
and moralistic interest in its women’s sexuality; hence why male sex workers manage to
avoid the same victim status. As Dr Brooke Magnanti stated in the Telegraph, “The
unchecked moral panic about sex trafficking infantilises women…. In virtually everything
written about trafficking, the victims are by and large women, by and large used for sex.” 157
Some academics feel that the term trafficking is being used to depoliticise discussions about
prostitution and migration. “By presenting foreign prostitutes simply as victims who need to
be rescued, the government erases all of the complex reasons why people might turn to
prostitution in certain situations. … [F]or some women, prostitution might be something
they turn to in the absence of the possibility of other work.158 This scenario takes us away
from the super-moralised trafficking discourse and leads us to a very different and political
discussion about immigration and restrictions on people’s movement and labour.”159 These
academics believe that trafficking is a lot more ‘prosaic’160 in most instances. And that unless
we are honest about the fact that most people we class as ‘victims of trafficking’ have agency
but few options and so are, rather, victims of poverty, immigration controls and the
153 Argentina: Jewish White Slavery by Donna Guy,
slavery See also 1910 “International Agreement for the suppression of the White Slave Traffic”
154 Sex at the Margins by Dr. Agustin
155 “I worked in the sex trade; does that make me 'trafficked'?” Dr Magnanti Telegraph 18 October 2012
156 For example, “Threats to UK women linked to gangs still overlooked” by Katie Nguyen, Mon, 2 Sep 2013,
157 “I worked in the sex trade; does that make me 'trafficked'?” Dr Magnanti Telegraph 18 October 2012
158 A counter argument is presented by Vidyamali Samarasinghe in her book Female Sex Trafficking in Asia: “It
was difficult to draw a line separating trafficking from free choice or voluntary prostitution. ..The question is
whether the systematic gender ramifications that propel women to ‘choose’ prostitution… are any different
from those that push women and girls who seek employment and find themselves coerced into the
commercial sex industry…””
159 The new slave trade? by Tara McCormack, lecturer in international relations at Brunel University, Spiked-
online, 09/02/09
160 ibid
Shadow City | 37
limitations these both bring, then we will not be successfully tackling trafficking or
exploitation. Instead, as Operation Pentameter may have done,161 we may be harming
victims by “well-intentioned” 162 policy. Dr Agustín believes that what is presented as a
campaign to protect migrants in fact does the reverse – it makes their efforts to escape
their home, or find work in unforgiving circumstances, that much more difficult.
The challenge against child trafficking
Professor Nick Mai, from the Working Lives Research Institute of London Metropolitan
University, has carried out research challenging black and white interpretations of human
trafficking which goes one step further. He looked into child prostitution and aimed to
demonstrate that, “Contrary to current hegemonic ‘one fits all’ narratives of ‘trafficking’ and
victimisation, [my work] shows how experiences of exploitation must be read within the
cultural and social realities of the subjects directly involved.”163
Professor Mai said his work with male Roma youths had forced him to reluctantly accept
the possibility for older minors and adolescents to consent to selling sex. He notes one
child charity sanctimoniously telling him that “we do not talk about child prostitution, we
talk about child exploitation.”164 Yet he contrasted this inflexible view with an interview he
had carried out just a few weeks before. The interviewee was a 16-year-old Romanian
“child”, who was married with two children, and who had previously decided to migrate to
Italy where he had, and continued to, sell sex to men. When asked how he felt, as a young
teenager, when he first sold sex to a man he “ridiculed my implicit concern with the
following reply. Fine, how else should I feel!? I fucked, I came and I earned 30 euros.”165
Professor Mai found that many of these young boys he spoke to had fled the ‘protectionist’
initiatives and support offered by the Government and charitable intervention because they
were seen as ‘infantalising and a waste of time.’166 They felt the Government/NGO options
offered did not match the opportunities sex work gave them. Professor Mai found that
many of these boys felt empowered through sex work. The majority thought that selling sex
provided them with wealth in a way their lack of education and social stigma as a migrant
would never allow. They also thought that selling sex “provide[d them] with an area of
social interaction where they are valued and desired in stark contrast with most other social
settings” and that it was effectively “a better answer to their economic, social and
psychological needs than that provided by ‘protectionist’ initiatives”.167
Professor Mai told us that there is a “disparity between the understanding of living standards
and welfare from social workers’ and charities’ point of view, versus the reality of migrant
children. Far more migrant children than society realises are simply responsible for their
162Red mist obscures red light statistics by Dr Belinda Brooks-Gordon,, Friday 3 April 2009
163 Tampering with the Sex of ‘Angels’: Migrant Male Minors and Young Adults Selling Sex in the EU, Prof Nick
Mai, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 37, Issue 8, 2011
164 ibid
165 ibid
166 Interview with Professor Nick Mai, 2012
167 Tampering with the Sex of ‘Angels’: Migrant Male Minors and Young Adults Selling Sex in the EU, Prof Nick
Mai, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, Volume 37, Issue 8, 2011
Shadow City | 38
families. A minority of children are actually trafficked. The majority are just trying to fit their
lives around the possibilities presented to them by the immigration system.”168 Professor
Mai felt that we did not accept that the system of the protection of minors is actually seen
as an avenue for many children to support themselves and their families abroad. “If the
system is such in the UK that we protect unaccompanied children, then they will present
themselves as such (even if there is a parent somewhere) if that is what the asylum system
The challenge against the trafficking of migrants
One academic told us, “I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as
‘trafficking’”.170 Many academics felt the word was problematic and Professor Bridget
Anderson said it is used to “mystify other concerns.”171
Horrendous abuse and exploitation does indeed take place, “particularly against foreigners”
but, she said, “We need to look at the nature of the abuse and violence. By giving migration
as the problem you distract from the key issue of exploitation.”172
“Trafficking de-politicises arguments around these issues – you can’t possibly have those
arguments [about the rights and wrongs of migration and sex work] anymore when you use
the term ‘trafficking’, as everyone wants to agree trafficking is bad!”173 This leads to a fake
and precarious consensus between conflicting organisations and politicians and means
arguments that are really about other issues are not argued about in a direct way. This may
explain why there appear to be so many contradictions within the trafficking debate.
Hence politicians can use trafficking to cloak concerns about immigration. Labour Home
Secretary John Reid stated in 2007 that three quarters of illegal immigrants are trafficked;174
yet there were only 23175 convictions for trafficking offences that same year. His statement
could be seen to shift the blame of poverty and immigration controls away from the
Government and imply that these people were victims of ‘traffickers’, not Government
Conversely, charities that support less stringent immigration regulations or support
enhanced migrant and labour rights can shift a debate about exploited illegal migrants into a
debate about increasing support for victims of trafficking. Meanwhile charities that are
168 Interview with Professor Nick Mai, 2012
169 Ibid
170 Anonymous
171 Interview with Prof Anderson, 2012
172 ibid
173 ibid
174 Foreigners: victims or villains?- a political debate Bridget Anderson 20 June 2008 Dr Bridget Anderson
RA&sig2=JuaDOU_K-kioHgzs69YJTw&bvm=bv.53537100,d.ZGU March 2013, Human Trafficking : UK
Shadow City | 39
abolitionist in regard to sex work are alleged to use the cloak of trafficking to push
recommendations that essentially try to criminalise all sex workers.
The problem with this is that it means trafficking is subject to a variety of interpretations. As
a natural consequence of this variety of interpretations, victims risk getting overlooked or
their stories over-simplified to fit into, sometimes political, paradigms.
There are some who believe no laws are needed to deal with trafficking as we already have
legislation for rape, false imprisonment, pimping, minimum wage avoidance etc. Therefore
we should seek to enforce these, rather than cloak all these multitude of different types of
exploitation under the concealing singular cloak of “trafficking”.
As Dr Doezma has stated "[E]ven a recognition that disputes over the meaning of trafficking
involve politics and ideology does not go far enough: it still leaves intact the idea that
trafficking can be defined satisfactorily, if political will, clear thinking, and practicality
prevail."176 Melissa Gira Grant wrote in the Guardian that this means “there can be no
assessment of the severity of "trafficking" if we define this issue by a simple and coherent
accounting of "victims". What's lost in the relentless defining and counting are the complex
factors behind what is now almost unquestioningly called "trafficking". Most of all, what is
lost is any understanding or appreciation of the challenges faced by the millions of people
working, struggling and surviving in abusive conditions, whose experiences will never fit on a
Authorities need a greater understanding of the vast array of experiences of people who are
trafficked. Some victims of trafficking and exploitation will not see themselves as such, and
therefore solutions must work with such victims rather than against them, while aiming to
prevent them from being exploited.
TransparencyPolice and NGOs
When I was researching the issues around trafficking for sexual exploitation, for my last
report178 on the policing of sex workers, one expert in the field I spoke to kindly tried to
assist me by giving me a warning. They told me to be careful when writing the report so as
not to ‘upset the trafficking charities’. I was advised that, no matter what, I should
recommend that more needs to be done to tackle trafficking.
As it happened, my conclusions led precisely to this recommendation. However, there was
an inherent fear amongst certain people working in this area that my criticisms of certain
ways we were policing sex trafficking would make trafficking organisations feel that I was
denying their legitimacy.
176 Dr Doezema, a researcher with the Paulo Longo Research Initiative and author of Sex Slaves and Discourse
Masters: The Construction of Trafficking, quoted in The truth about trafficking: it's not just about sexual
exploitation by Melissa Gira Grant, Wednesday 24 October 2012
177 The truth about trafficking: it's not just about sexual exploitation by Melissa Gira Grant,
Wednesday 24 October 2012
178 Silence on Violence, Andrew Boff , 2012
Shadow City | 40
While some police have been very helpful while I have produced this report, certain
sections of the Metropolitan Police have appeared to be defensive in relation to my work in
this area. I was concerned when someone I interviewed for this report alleged that they had
received an intimidating call from one Unit in the Metropolitan Police about the information
they had provided me with. Furthermore, I have written numerous Mayor’s Question Time
(MQT) questions and Freedom of Information requests (FOIs), many of which have been
returned unanswered, in spite of some of the requests being fairly basic. I was concerned by
the fact that the Metropolitan Police could not, for example, apparently easily provide me
with the list of top three countries from which trafficked children originate. 179 I have also
found that one or two police officers, who were initially enthusiastic to speak to my office,
then became reluctant, after contacting superiors. I cannot be sure that this was due to a
reluctance to work with me on this report, and it may well be linked instead to the police’s
limited resources. However, the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) must
examine how transparency can be improved to ensure information is available to those
working in the trafficking field as well as to the public.
I appreciate now that there is a complex debate about the term ‘trafficking’ itself. Yet there
is no doubt amongst anyone I spoke to that many people, particularly migrant workers, are
being exploited. Therefore no NGOs, police or other stakeholders helping exploited people
should be concerned by questioning the status quo around the terms or responses in this
I aim in this report to describe current human trafficking models taking place in London, as
well as some of the debates around trafficking, and ensure that I am as transparent as
possible about questions on this issue. Unless we have these debates in public, confusion
will continue in this area, and victims will suffer as a result.
179 For example, MQT 2497/2012Questionby Andrew Boff. “In 2011, what were the top three origin countries
of child victims of trafficking; and what areas of exploitation were they involved in?Answer by Boris Johnson:
Wherever information is available to respond to a question, this will be provided. In this instance, extensive
and disproportionate diversion of operational MPS resources would be required and thus the MPS is unable
to answer these questions.
Shadow City | 41
Nigerian victims of trafficking
My research from Silence on Violence 180 in 2011-2012 suggested that the West African
experience of trafficking was far more significant than was commonly understood. The
police data181 at the time appeared to exclude African victims of trafficking. Yet these
African victims were clearly visible in centres where trafficking victims were being
supported.182 This was described as a ‘deliberate oversight if there was any oversight at all”
by Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), a UK organisation advocating for the rights
and welfare of African children. Since writing Silence on Violence, the first set of IDMG data
has now at least confirmed that Nigerian victims of trafficking are believed to be the largest
victim group in London and the UK.183
When speaking to the police at the time, there was an assumption that there was a
common thread running through all trafficking cases, as they insisted all trafficking involved
organised criminal networks and was rarely, if at all, a one-off informal event. A variety of
evidence - the limited number of Africans found in brothels; the large proportion of Africans
in trafficking centres - pointed to the fact that the police, perhaps by focusing at that time on
organised trafficking in organised structures such as public ‘brothels’, were missing these
West African victims.
A number of different stakeholders told us that different trafficking cases must not be
“lumped” together as “different people come from different networks and they each have
different problems”.184 Andy Desmond, who used to work in the former Trafficking Unit at
the Metropolitan Police, said categorically that “you can’t use the same investigation
techniques for different trafficking cultures.”185
While the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Trafficking team186 has a deep understanding of a
variety of types of trafficking, there was a concern, about the policing of trafficking in general
in London, that there was a one-size fits all policy. There was a strong feeling from certain
organisations, including Afruca, that the African experience of human trafficking was not
adequately understood in the Metropolitan Police. We were told by several organisations
that “they have done a great deal of work on Chinese and Eastern European cases but
180 Silence on Violence, Andrew Boff , 2012
181 Project Acumen -
182 Silence on Violence, Andrew Boff , 2012
183 Page 15 of IDMG report Also By far the largest number of referrals of potential victims of trafficking
received by the UKHTC since the inception of the NRM in April 2009 are Nigerian nationals” IDMG Report
184 Meeting with Klara Skrivankova from Anti-Slavery International
185 Meeting with Andy Desmond, Anti-Trafficking Consultant
186 The Unit sits within the Human Exploitation and Organised Crime Command. It is commonly referred to as
SCD9 although this name has since changed to SC&O9 in 2012 and then to SC&O7 in 2013. For this report I
will use the unofficial term ‘Human Trafficking Unit’ to identify this police team.
Shadow City | 42
nothing at all on African victims.”187 Since this meeting I was reassured by police that the
Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Trafficking Unit looked into all cases and they did
appear to be proactively looking into this area, including travelling to Nigeria to liaise with
police there.
However, Afruca had “raised these issues years ago with one of the London Mayors. We
were told [that the] Mayor had no power...”188 A number of stakeholders echoed Debbie
Ariyo’s words that we “definitely need this report as the problem is not abating.”189
A UKHTC 2012 report showed that Nigeria was the top source country for those
trafficked into London (and therefore, the UK) for purposes of domestic exploitation.190
While the total number of registered potential victims from Nigeria has increased in recent
years, it is important to note that this may well reflect a gradual improvement in how we
identify these cases, rather than an actual rise in the volume of trafficked persons.
Sex trafficking in Nigeria tends to originate or pass through Delta and Benin City in Edo
State (mid-West) with the chief destination being Italy.191 Afruca said that the majority of
African victims of trafficking were under 25 years of age and were predominantly and
disproportionately Nigerian, but that there were other cases involving, for example,
Ghanaian, Eritrean, Ugandan and Sierra Leonean victims. Other stakeholders however
highlighted that it was important to remember not to just highlight one nationality, such as
just Nigerian cases, “because the evidence suggests trafficked children arrive from many
countries [such as] Congo, Ghana, and Somalia.”192
Exploitation is believed to be “concentrated in London.”193 A recent report found that the
“vast majority [of the cases they looked at] were situated in and around Greater
London.”194 When researching different cases around the UK, what was notable was that
even when victims were found outside of London their exploitation had often begun in
London. A Government source also told us that the majority of cases still go through
London ports, which is why more resource is placed there.
187 Quote from Afruca, same point stated by a domestic violence charity working with BME victims
188 Meeting with Debbie Ariyo, Afruca, in City Hall
189 Meeting with Domestic Violence charity working with BME victims of abuse
190The most prevalent country of origin for potential victims of domestic servitude was Nigeria (23, 26%)”
UKHTC: A Strategic Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2012, published August
191 Nigeria’s connections with Italy originate from established trade networks between Edo and Italy. In towns
such as Castel Volturno, over a third of the 25,000 official citizens are African. Nigerian criminal networks also
have strong links presently with the Italian, Columbian and Chinese mafia operating in Italy.
192 Evidence from Prof Kurt Barling, Professor of Professional Practice in Journalism & Television, Middlesex
University London and Special Correspondent, BBC London News who we contacted for his expertise for this
report, and who is not making observations in a political capacity.
193 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
194 Ibid
Shadow City | 43
All countries in Western Europe are facing a similar problem with EUROPOL identifying
“Nigerian organized crime as one of the largest law enforcement challenges to European
Worryingly, a number of cases have highlighted that the UK is being used not only as a
destination country but also as a transit country to other European countries. “This is a real
and disturbing phenomenon.”196 While victims of domestic servitude are largely sent directly
to the UK, rather than multiple destinations across Europe, victims of sexual exploitation
visit multiple locations and at times appear to enter Europe via the UK.
Victims tend to be brought into the country by plane – particularly those using the UK as a
transit country.197 However, victims can also be taken by land and sea into Europe via
Algeria or Libya and, if they survive the journey, may eventually end up in London. I was told
by one stakeholder that they had seen sexual exploitation cases in the north of London – in
Newham, Ilford and Paddington - where they were usually moved between private flats.
However, I was told they had seen more domestic human trafficking cases in Croydon,
Lewisham, Newham, Barking, Ilford, Haringey, Lambeth and Southwark.198
When victims enter the UK, if they are not accompanying a ‘family’ or a ‘husband,’ they are
often told to claim asylum and use the resources at their disposal as this offers a cheaper
option to the trafficker. Because the victim is under 18 or claims to be so, they are then
taken into the care of social services and placed in children's homes or foster care. It is from
here that they will then receive or make a call to the person they have been told to meet,
and they will then disappear into the ether, possibly never to be seen again.
The Victims’ Background
Nigeria is the seventh199 largest producer of oil yet 60-70 per cent200 of its population live
below the poverty line. This is cited as the most visible cause of trafficking. An ILO report
found that 72 per cent of parents gave their children to traffickers because they were unable
to afford their school fees.201 Trafficking or dislocation of children can often occur in Nigeria
before they are taken to the UK. In an IPPR study, 71 per cent of their Nigerian trafficking
195 A 2011 report by Europol identified Nigeria as one of the top four “most threatening” countries in the
world in terms of criminal groups involved in trafficking, and top two in the world with China in its adept
production of counterfeit or falsified documents to facilitate trafficking.“ Ties that bind: African witchcraft and
contemporary slavery By Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop 17 September 2012
196 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
197 Victims can also “ be flown directly from Nigeria to Moscow, Istanbul or other eastern European countries,
and then smuggled across the border into western Europe. Another route for women, en route to Italy, is
from West Africa (most commonly Ghana) to Paris, Amsterdam or London, and from there to Italy by train
(Carling, 2006)”.
198 Evidence from Carolina Albuerne, Refugee and HumanTrafficking Specialist, at City Hall, 2013
199 The Nigerian Constitution and Issue in the Cost if Governance, Prof M. T. Ladan T
200 Ibid
201 A Bewitching Economy: Witchcraft and Human Trafficking Traditional beliefs in witchcraft are being used by
human traffickers to silence their victims. Article | 17 September 2012 By Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop
Shadow City | 44
cases, who had been brought to the UK, lived outside their nuclear family as children and 28
per cent had been internally trafficked as children.202
Poverty and a lack of opportunity in Nigeria is seen as a major catalyst to the problem of
external trafficking. “Locals say that for most people, the only way to get ahead is to leave
Nigeria.” 203 Studies demonstrate that many (36%204) know the risks but still feel heading for
Europe is worth the risk. While the desire to leave is partly fuelled by “the dream of a job
— any job205”, this ‘better life’ sought was often not one marked by grand opportunity, but
one simply free from abuse and violence.
Indeed, Edo state – the region most strongly associated with the practice of human
trafficking - has less poverty than most Nigerian states.206 While the trafficking of Nigerians
internally and externally is linked to poverty, this does not provide a full explanation.
Instead, for example, many victims are escaping violence from within their home or
community. They also may be pushed into a trafficking situation by a vulnerability linked to
their gender. Many women are unable to access education or employment, or are widowed,
forced into marriage, or made homeless. Unemployment is especially high among women,
with labour markets and roles still “tightly structured around gender hierarchies”.207 In a
recent IPPR study208 of UK cases from Nigeria, 15 per cent had been coerced into or
threatened with forced marriage and 10 per cent underwent (alongside five per cent
escaping) female genital mutilation. 209
Types of exploitation
Organised prostitution and the UK’s role as a transit destination
Between 1 January and 31 August 2013, there were 389 potential victims of human
trafficking identified in London according to UKHTC data collection. 150 of these referrals
were from Africa. Nigeria was the second highest source country with 76 victims. Between
21st October 2011 to 12th September 2012, there were 102 Nigerian referrals. 210
Many human trafficking victims in London are now believed to be Nigerian and from other
African countries. Yet, in spite of common perceptions of what trafficking constitutes, most
202 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
203 Sex slaves are unceremoniously dumped back in Nigeria by Heather Murdock, February 12, 2013, Global
204 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
205 Ibid
206 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
207 (Truong 2006) PPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
208 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
209 The recent case involving trafficker Osezua Osolase demonstrates the potential vulnerabilities of being a girl
in Nigeria. One victim had been married off at 12 to a violent man and had run away; and another had been
made homeless following a pregnancy and had subsequently been gang-raped on the street.
210 Data provided to us by the UKHTC. See Appendix 2.
Shadow City | 45
do not fit the “wide-scale organised prostitution” paradigm in the UK. Organisations,
lawyers and many other stakeholders highlighted the fact that Nigerian victims are not fitting
the typical victim profile. We were repeatedly told that, “There is a stereotype of big
organised crime” 211 yet Nigerian trafficking often “wasn’t organised or formal [but] very
disorganised”. 212 The majority of cases involved the victim being trafficked via informal
arrangements213 involving people known or even related to the victim such as a parent, aunt
or husband.214
However, trafficking from Nigeria to other European countries such as Italy, the Czech
Republic or the Netherlands usually involved more organised networks. I was also told that
the sex trafficking of Nigerians is more common in the rest of Europe, whereas in the UK
this is not the dominant form of exploitation type215. Rather I was told that216most Nigerian
victims of trafficking are brought here for domestic servitude. 217
Nonetheless, the UK can be used as a transit destination before these Nigerian women are
taken to mainland Europe to be sex trafficked. England may not be the final destination for a
number of reasons including the fact that the “vast majority of West African women and
girls are exploited in street Prostitution” 218 which is less common in the UK. But it should
however be noted that street prostitution is on the rise in London219 and this may affect
how Nigerian trafficking manifests itself in the next few years. Furthermore, in contrast to
this disparity between the UK and the rest of Europe, a UNODC report noted that sex
trafficking from East Africa (Uganda and Kenya) is found mainly in the United Kingdom
rather than in the rest of the Europe. 220
211 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
212 Interview with Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2012
213 “Nigerian victims report that acquaintances, close friends or family members play a major role in the
recruitment of victims. Recruitment frequently occurs in the victim’s own home... And is characterized by a
debt bondage scheme..” TIP to Europe for Sexual Exploitation Report
214 “However, family members and organised crime are not mutually exclusive, as the family member may be
simply the first link in a chain. This initial contact may not be an anonymous criminal force, but a friend or
relative. In many cases these are the first link, especially for women who are trafficked into the sex industry,
with the role of this familiar person being to broker contact with a trafficker” Ties that bind: African
witchcraft and contemporary slavery by Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop,
215 “Unlike trafficking from Nigeria to other European countries such as Italy or the Netherlands, sexual
exploitation does not appear to be the dominant form of exploitation in the UK; instead, domestic servitude
was more common” Addressing the gaps in Child Trafficking in the country, by Amina Alhassa,1 March 2013,
Daily Trust
216 Afruca and Andy Desmond and Cherifa Atoussi all confirmed this as did the IPPR report, Beyond Borders
217 Even though recent Government data does not always show this to be the case. Data from the Report,
UKHTC: A Strategic Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2012 August 2013, suggests
most Nigerian cases involve sexual exploitation. However, a great deal of the cases they identify in this report
relating to Nigerian victims are described as ‘unknown’ exploitation.
218 UNODC Report - Trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation in Europe , 2009
219 MOPAC’s Report, Capital Exploits: A Study of Prostitution and Trafficking in London; Julie Bindel, Ruth
Breslin and Laura Brown
220 UNODC Report - Trafficking in persons for sexual exploitation in Europe , 2009
Shadow City | 46
This difference between the UK and Europe further highlights why trafficking cases should
not be seen as a one size fits all model either in terms of prevention or action. Just as each
trafficking case is specific to the ethnic community it takes place in, so too is it affected by
where and when it takes place. Most organisations felt Nigerian victims were largely
exploited in residential environments.221 We were told that “you won’t find most victims in
brothels. They are brought to service our people.”222
An NGO working with trafficked victims however highlighted the fact that they had seen
cases of sex trafficking of West Africans in brothels in London. 223 They said that data
implied police didn’t find them in brothel raids simply because they may not identify
themselves as victims. However, in some cases I was told African women may have chosen
to come to Europe to be prostitutes “in preference to a life of poverty that offers them no
dignity at all” 224 and may not view themselves as trafficked.
The NGO provided us with the number of cases they had seen between 2003 and 2012:
Nigerian victims made up both the largest number of cases for sexual trafficking and
domestic servitude. They had seen 190 Nigerian ‘client’ referrals indicating exploitation in
prostitution; 58 in domestic servitude; and 156 had indicators of being exploited in ‘other’
types of trafficking. Afruca told us that the large number of sex cases was not indicative of
how Nigerian trafficking manifested itself in London, but rather was because proactive work
around trafficking had focused on prostitution rather than domestic servitude.
The above NGO alone emphasised that there were “certainly indicators of organised crime,
with several individuals involved at different stages of the trafficking process”. However,
other stakeholders said that due to the harm225 this idea caused, they were “reticent to play
up the organised aspect in UK.” 226
In October 2012, European police raided brothels across the continent in search of West
African victims. Notably, the UK was left out of this joint project, highlighting perhaps an
awareness of the unique nature of the types of trafficking which occur in the UK,
predominantly in London.227
221 Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop told us, “This is in keeping with international trends as sex trafficking in India for
example is moving from brothels and red light areas to residential homes. I recently visited Nepal where I was
told this about Nepalese trafficking victims into India.” September 2013
222 Interview with Afruca, in City Hall, 2012
223 A stakeholder told us of one case where a girl was brought by a Nigerian trafficker and then sold to a
part-Irish part white South African man and was then used in Scottish and Irish brothels.. The Irish man was
jailed but the Nigerian was never prosecuted.
In evidence from an interview with an NGO working with trafficked victims 2012
224 Evidence from Prof. Nick Mai, 2012
225 As discussed in Silence on Violence, Boff, 2012 a focus on large organised crime by police misses many
Nigerian victims who are based in informal residential setting.
226 Interview with Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2012
227 European police raid brothel for Nigerian traffickers - October 27, 2012 Nigeria Sun
Shadow City | 47
Private fostering and domestic servitude
Trafficking occurs in all communities and in each type of trafficking case the traffickers are
likely to exploit the cultural norms associated with the victim’s own background. In West
Africa there is a tradition of private fostering where children may be looked after by
relatives or friends of the parents if the parents, for example, are struggling to afford the
costs of the child.228 Debbie Ariyo from Afruca stated, "A parent back home wouldn't bat an
eyelid if somebody from here came to them and said 'I live in London I can look after your
child for you'." However, while one can defend this practice by saying “fostering is a way
for the child to get out of poverty”229 I was told that informal fostering takes place regularly
in London and that in the majority of cases, exploitation occurs.
When I contacted Professor Kurt Barling, of Middlesex University London and a Special
Correspondent for BBC London News, about the trafficking of West Africans he said it was
a reasonable widespread practice in West Africa because there is no social security net to
protect impoverished families. However, “troubles start”230 when you move the practice to
another jurisdiction. Indeed, in contrast to a number of academics’ discomfort about the
focus on movement in the term trafficking, Professor Barling explained to me clearly why it
is the very “movement” of the victim across a border which transforms a reasonable
practice in one country, into an exploitative one in another. First, this type of informal
adoption is ‘regulated’ in West Africa by social structures and norms,231 while “those
brought to the UK are far more vulnerable. There is no regulation of any sort.” 232
Furthermore, many families don’t think about how that child’s future will pan out once they
become an adult. Significant numbers of children brought over to the UK “are completely
invisible to the British system with no legitimate paperwork and this makes them very
vulnerable to deportation and to an absence of effective protection by the state233” once
they are no longer useful to the family. If they are deported it will be to a country they now
barely know and therefore they easily fall prey to possible re-trafficking. If they try and
continue their lives here in the UK, they can often not do so legitimately, as they have rarely
stayed in the UK legally, and without proper documentation these young people are driven
into underground and often illegal dangerous activities.
Professor Kurt Barling said, “Some of the solutions to the trafficking problem lie in
communities accepting this practice is not in the best interests of the child if it is swept
underground… There is no point in using a defence of it being a cultural practice if the
children end up the victims and traffickers end up benefiting from the exploitation but
“immune” from … prosecution.”
228 This also applies to many other cultures; for example Kafalah in Muslim countries. “Kafalah is usually defined
as “the commitment to voluntarily take care of the maintenance, of the education and of the protection of a
minor, in the same way as a father would do it for his son” (art. 116 Family Code of Algeria). …. Kafalah is a
form of permanency for children in the Islamic world. It is similar, but not necessarily equivalent to, adoption.”
229 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors , 2012
230 Evidence from Professor Barling, City Hall, 2013
231 However, Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop has found that private fostering in Nigeria is increasingly linked to
abuses in trafficking for intercountry adoption.
232 Evidence from Professor Barling, City Hall, 2013
233 ibid
Shadow City | 48
Typical domestic trafficking cases involve 14 to 16 year olds being brought to London, often
on visitor visas which then expire,234 to be used as domestic servants under the false
premise of receiving a better education. Even if the intention was to give the child some
education, it will quickly become clear to the family, who are using the child, that what they
are doing is illegal in the UK and therefore, to avoid authorities asking questions, they may
feel obliged to take the child out of school. Evidence shows that the child is often forced to
work inhumane hours as a domestic servant and possibly as a nanny to children. They will
often be physically abused, sometimes sexually, and have no rights because to appear above
the radar would risk deportation or being taken into care. Sometimes the traffickers
disguise the child’s origins by giving them the same family name. The child may then assume
they are part of that family, as will the outside world.
A number of stakeholders highlighted how easy it was to have a private fostering
arrangement in the UK without the knowledge of the authorities. There are currently no
exit checks or any special safeguarding arrangements for children entering the country and
the Home Office keeps no record of the number of children who are residing in the UK on
expired visitor visas. A family bringing a child into the UK is not obliged to declare the
fostering arrangement for at least 28 days. Furthermore, if they fail to notify the authorities
it is highly unlikely that they will be contacted since the onus is on the family rather than the
local authority to declare the situation.235 The CSJ Report, It Happens Here, found that
between 2011 and 2012 there were 2,840 new foster arrangements declared in England
equating to 8.71 known private fostering arrangements per local authority area.236 However,
charities working in this area informed me that they believe many thousands are not
registered and that many of these children are at risk of exploitation.
One African domestic violence organisation thought that this form of domestic servitude,
while now coming more to the fore, was actually “possibly going down” since it was a “real
problem” in the 1980s. However, Professor Barling assessed that all forms of trafficking of
African victims were on the rise as “there is no reason to believe the problem of African
trafficking has gone down. For all we know it might have gone up given that many African
communities from conflict zones have settled in London over the last decade.”237 Certainly
more children are being referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM)238 system as
potential victims of trafficking.
234Children and Families Across Borders has stated that in around 75 per cent of the cases of private
fostering they have seen, the child has an expired visitor visa.” It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice
Report, 2013
235 It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice Report, 2013: “Although local authorities do have a statutory
responsibility to identify and check private fostering arrangements, if a local authority does not know about a
private fostering arrangement, they cannot check it: ‘ The CSJ recommends that local authority responses to
private fostering arrangements in their area be included in the criteria for Ofsted inspections.
236 It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice Report, 2013
237 Evidence from Professor Barling, City Hall, 2013
238 The NRM is a Government framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring they receive
the appropriate protection and support. The NRM is also the mechanism through which the UKHTC collects
data about victims. This information contributes to building a clearer picture about the scope of human
trafficking in the UK
Shadow City | 49
The number of Nigerian children referred into the NRM
The latest UKHTC data 240 appears to contradict an IPPR report on Nigerian trafficking, as
well as statements I have heard from those stakeholders working with Nigerian victims, who
state that domestic trafficking is more dominant than sex trafficking, as it suggests that most
Nigerian victims were used for sexual exploitation. However, approximately an equal
number in the UKHTC data were “unknown.”241 The UKHTC accepts that their data is far
from conclusive, and yet the Government relies on these figures for policy decisions.
A source from the LSGB said, “The big thing lacking is prevalent data collection- it’s difficult
when there are reduced resources for safeguarding boards. They need support but without
solid evidence of the problem in an area it’s hard to get additional funds and resource.”242 If
the Mayor wants to have a true grasp on the human trafficking situation, then the Greater
London Authority will need to start collecting data from all the relevant stakeholders and
the police and create its own data source. Without this information we risk a situation
where “the blind are leading the blind.”243
Sexual abuse
Stakeholders such as Afruca told us that most sexual exploitation does not occur in
‘organised’ environments such as brothels “because it is too risky” but rather takes place in
closed communities more informally. Many domestic cases of exploitation, described
above, can turn into sexual exploitation. A domestic worker may be casually but regularly
exploited by a man and his friends, or be deliberately sold for sex at night within the
trafficker’s own home or in other residential flats. We were also told that in such cases they
may also be used in pornography.244 One NGO, working with trafficked boys who were
victims of sexual abuse, said they had also come across African male victims of domestic
servitude who have disclosed experiences of sexual exploitation.
I was also told that a victim of trafficking may enter the country as a “wife” even though the
man may already be married. Her passport may be removed or she may enter on a false
passport. In this case again she will be beaten, exploited as a domestic ‘slave’, may be forced
to abort any children and may be sold for sex to his friends. An African domestic violence
charity provided a number of examples whereby the victim felt unable to prosecute her
“husband” after seeking help with them, because of family pressure. The family pressurise
her to return and believe she “should just be grateful for him bringing [her] here.”245
239 Parliamentary question, Baroness Doocey Citation: HL Deb, 22 April 2013, c384W
240 UKHTC: A Strategic Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2012 August 2013
242 Interview with source from the LSGB
243 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013
244 In evidence from an interview with an NGO working with trafficked victims 2012
245 In evidence from an interview with an NGO working with domestic violence victims form the BME
Shadow City | 50
Multiple exploitation
There is a clear “blurring of exploitation types”246 as victims may be used for multiple types
of exploitation, as demonstrated by the interspersing of domestic (as a helper or “wife”) and
sexual (prostitution and pornography) exploitation described above. 247 Andy Desmond,
Director at Anti-Trafficking Consultant Ltd, highlighted how entrepreneurial Nigerian forms
of trafficking were and that ‘maximising profit’248 was key - this led to victims being used
financially for multiple purposes. He gave the example of one victim who was made to carry
over cocaine in breast implants before being trafficked for sexual exploitation. A recent
Mayoral report on sex work in London stated that there is also apparently an increasing
number of pregnant Sierra Leonean women in ‘alternativesex work who may be victims of
dual trafficking for benefits and sex work. 249
Children are also being brought into London to gain families extra benefits. One project
working with trafficked children and young people had seen a large number of Somali
children brought over for benefit fraud and who were then thrown out at 16. This creates a
number of challenges. Once children are too old to gain any further benefits or are too
strong to be controlled they are often then ejected from the home. This may be
contributing to a situation reported by BBC Inside Out London whereby “hundreds of
children [are] living rough in London”250 with no nationality and are often forced to turn to
crime. Once discovered they are then treated like criminals 251and are often returned
‘home’ to a country they have barely any knowledge of.252
I was also told that African girls, some as young as 12, are being brought in unaccompanied
so that they can be put into local authority care. They are then deliberately impregnated to
enable them to become eligible for council flats. We were told that this has “been in the
system for years.”253 Debbie Ariyo, from Africans Unite Against Child Abuse (Afruca), told
the BBC “some of the girls ended up in prostitution while the flats were rented out in a
"money making scam".254
Tim Starkey, a barrister specialising in criminal law at Castle Chambers, who has handled
cases involving West African victims of trafficking, said a lot of children being trafficked are
used for benefits but that “there is a tendency to ignore the benefits side of this crime
246 Interview with Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2012
247 See also case study form the IPPR Report, Beyond borders: “In one case, one victim was forced into
domestic servitude, forced to undergo fertility treatment in order to donate eggs (organ harvesting), sexually
abused and pimped into forced prostitution (sexual exploitation) and forced to work in a factory job for no
pay (labour exploitation)”
248Meeting with Andy Desmond, Anti-Trafficking Consultant
249 MOPAC’s Report, Capital
Exploits: A Study of
Prostitution and Trafficking in London; Julie Bindel, Ruth Breslin and Laura Brown
250 Children 'with no state' in UK, 5 November 2012 By Zack Adesina, BBC London
251 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors , 2012
252 In evidence from an interview with Debbie Ariyo and Lola Gani-Yusuf, Afruca , 2012 and from Cherifa
Atoussi, Anti-trafficking Consultant, 2012, City Hall
253 In evidence from an interview with an NGO supporting BME victims of domestic violence.
254 Girls smuggled to UK for flats, Davies, BBC, 9 May 2006
Shadow City | 51
rather than saying, “What’s going on here?”255 He felt we needed to look far more deeply
into this type of crime. A local authority source said that increased centralisation, and
greater oversight on a pan-London level, of the benefits system might at the very least help
find those organised networks defrauding the system through possession of multiple houses
and so forth.
Emerging trends
While the trafficking of Nigerian victims is now emerging as the main ‘caseload’ in the UK, in
five years’ time this may well have all changed. It is crucial that we do not fixate on any form
of trafficking as the prototype. What has been mistakenly done before is for a general
presumption about what trafficking is to envelop the mind-set of authorities and the public;
this then blinds them to the constantly changing landscape of trafficking. While domestic and
sex trafficking are the main forms of exploitation of Nigerian victims, several trafficking
charities highlighted to me that several other new trends involving African, particularly
Nigerian, victims were occurring in London.
Baby trafficking
The first of these trends involves Nigerian babies being trafficked for adoption. This
highlights the fluid nature of trafficking as this was a criminal activity previously associated
with Romanian child victims, particularly in the 1990s.
In May 2013, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan “expressed concern over the increase
in sale of babies in the country and warned that those found guilty of the act would be made
to face the wrath of the law.”256 However, while a recent EU report highlighted this
problem, this has actually been occurring for many years. In May 2011, police freed 32
pregnant girls in Nigeria and, back in 2008, NAPTIP found a “dozen so-called baby
factories.”257 The UK is also no stranger to such cases. A Pastor was extradited to Kenya
for providing infertile women who attended his church in Peckham, South London,
with "miracle" babies between 1999 and 2004. The women travelled to Kenya to give birth,
while the biological mothers were told their baby had died at birth. 258
However, the UK and specifically London has recently come across a deluge of cases. In the
last year the Metropolitan Police Service’s Paladin Unit has come across around up to a
dozen cases of so-called miracle babies in London - whereby couples illegally buy new born
babies in Nigeria and bring them back, under false documentation, as their own.259
255 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
256 Nigeria raises alarm over increase in baby trafficking, May 28, 2013, This statement followed
two raids in Nigeria in early May which uncovered ‘baby factories’. In one case Nigerian police found 17
pregnant girls between the ages of 14 and 17, all impregnated by the same man, in a building masquerading as
an orphanage, where they said they were fed once a day and not allowed to leave.
257 Nigeria police free 17 girls in ‘baby-factory’ raid, 10 May 2013, AlArabiya
258'Miracle babies' pastor to be extradited to Kenya. By Jon Douglas, 21 September 2011
259 Evidence provided by ECPAT UK, 2013
Shadow City | 52
The traffickers in these cases are often highly respectable members of the public. In one
case in April 2013, Dr Simon Heap - a Research Fellow from Oxford who also held a post at
Plan International, an NGO working to improve the lives of children around the world - and
his wife, a nurse, were convicted of breaching immigration law for trying to dupe Nigerian
officials into believing a baby girl they wanted to bring back to the UK was theirs, using a
false birth certificate.
While Dr and Mrs Heap were sentenced, in another recent case, in October 2012, a
Nigerian couple, living in London, who were unable to have children, were given custody of
a Nigerian baby the wife believed she had miraculously given birth to, even though tests
showed they were not the child’s biological parents. The couple claimed that, after failing to
conceive, they travelled to Nigeria to have fertility treatment at a clinic. While there she
was sedated and, when she regained consciousness, she was told she had given birth. It was
only on their return to London that a GP alerted the local authorities. The High Court
Judge described the couple as being victim to the “most appalling scam“ and being “people
of the highest calibre and of complete integrity”260 However, this is of course irrelevant as
many traffickers are seemingly respectable citizens who may not even view their actions as
in any way immoral.
The London council involved in the case said they were "disappointed261" with the
judgement. The decision to grant them custody of the child “created an uproar among
charities, child and human rights groups” who saw their story as a “charade” and feared that
this case would lead to an increase in applications for visas for babies from Nigeria. Andy
Elvin, CEO of Children and Families Across Borders (CFAB)262 told the BBC,263 “These
unscrupulous people will exploit people for vast amounts of money. Behind every one of
these children lies an actual birth mother. She has been coerced, she may have been
kidnapped or raped. These children are not given up willingly.”
The UN TIP Trafficking protocol264 does not explicitly mention adoption and as a result
some countries do not count inter-country adoption in their trafficking statistics. I have also
been told that there are no sentencing guidelines on miracle babies265 in the UK and that
there are no controls around surrogacy266 and that we needed a review of all these cases.
This is something that the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) and their new
Sentencing Unit should encourage the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to examine.
Otherwise these cases will continue until a particularly shocking case comes to the media’s
attention, or victims, such as the child or the original parents, take the authorities to court.
Clearly these, as with almost all trafficking cases, are not black and white. The judge’s
attitude echoes an earlier case in February 2013 where Lord Justice Toulson said desperate
260 BBC News - Couple can keep Nigerian baby after 'scam' ruling, 18 Oct 2012
261 Ibid
262 A unique UK-based charity which identifies and protects children who have been separated from family
members as a consequence of trafficking, abduction, migration, divorce, conflict and asylum, as well as other
vulnerable individuals in often desperate circumstances.
263 BBC News - Couple can keep Nigerian baby after 'scam' ruling, 18 Oct 2012
264 Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons
265 Evidence from Carolina Albuerne, Refugee and Human Trafficking Specialist, at City Hall, 2013
266 Interview with Andy Elvin, Children and Families across Borders (CFAB), 2013
Shadow City | 53
parents who can’t have children and smuggle babies into the UK should not be treated as
traffickers and should be treated with sympathy.267
There is a world of difference between a childless couples who illegally adopt a child from a
willing mother and those extreme cases reported where women are raped, and forced to
give birth to children. However, the Romanian government’s response was firm. They
decided that in too many cases adoption in Romania was little more than an exercise in child
trafficking and put a moratorium268 on all international adoption.269
Trafficking of Nigerian boys
I have heard several anecdotal pieces of evidence around the sex trafficking of young African
boys. While it is no doubt less widespread than female sex trafficking, the lack of knowledge
in this area should not allow one to presume it is not a problem.
One stakeholder told me of residential houses used as brothels in one very specific area of
South East London where they offer young African boys. However, I was warned that it is a
very “taboo area and you won’t hear about it in these communities.”270 When I questioned
the Metropolitan Police about this issue they had not heard of these cases. It is concerning
that the communication between NGOs and the police is such that this information does
not appear to be filtering through.
African boys are also being forced into domestic servitude, where the risk of sexual
exploitation is high. One organisation which worked with trafficked children said they had
also seen a number of cases of trafficked Nigerian boys being sexually exploited.271 One case
involved a boy who was trafficked to north London and then taken outside of London for
labour exploitation. However, he and many other boys were raped on the journey to the
A recent report by the Salvation Army mentioned one case where “one African lad was so
broken, he wouldn’t leave this room. We put him in touch with the rape crisis team but
they wouldn’t touch him because he’s a man. So, the Home Office put us in touch with this
guy, he’s amazing and he’s transformed this guy but he’s expensive.’ 272 The lack of easily
accessible support for male victims highlighted here is clearly a concern.
267 This statement was made while the Judge presided over “the case of Carmen Thomas, who was so
desperate to become a mother that she pretended a girl born in the Philippines to a couple ‘who could not
afford to keep her’ was her own”. Baby smugglers should be shown mercy not treated as people traffickers,
Daily Mail, 21 Feb 2013
268 This was strongly pushed at an EU level, particularly by Baroness Emma Nicholson who said, “I unveiled a
huge network of global corruption and global trafficking… I'll give you the example of a poor Romanian boy,
who was trafficked to London, on a false passport. …Uncovering that (trafficking) ring, uncovered one of the
biggest paedophile rings in the globe” Romania rethinks adoption ban despite child-trafficking concerns,
269 However, many stakeholders, including the Romanian campaign group Catharsis felt that “an outright
moratorium was an overreaction. The group is a leading a campaign to resume international adoptions and
cites numerous cases where children have missed out on loving homes as a result of the ban.Romania
rethinks adoption ban despite child-trafficking concerns, DW,26.04.11
270 Meeting with an NGO campaigning against human trafficking, 2012
271 Charity project working with trafficked children and young people
272 Salvation Army report Support Needs of Male Victims of Human Trafficking, June 2013
Shadow City | 54
Trafficker profiles
Traffickers of Nigerian victims are hard to profile. They are often not organised273 criminals
but ‘ordinary citizens’ and ‘well-placed and respected community members.”274 One
trafficker, Lucy Adeniji, had several domestic slaves tending to her family and household,
who she beat and tortured. Yet she was a respected member of the community, working
with Newham Council and had written two books on childcare called ‘Parenting God’s
Way’ and ‘Carry a Seed’. Meanwhile, the ‘miracle babies’ case above involved an English
Oxbridge academic who worked to improve children’s lives.
We heard cases of traffickers being social workers, single mothers requiring child care,
pastors and lawyers; and the facilitation of trafficking often took place in open environments
such as in churches and at community events. Some traffickers with domestic child helpers
saw themselves as rescuing the child from a place of poverty and often did not view
themselves as doing anything wrong. 275
Exploiters involved in cases of domestic servitude were all Nigerian in the cases I examined
and this is the typical model for this type of exploitation. However, there were cases of
sexual exploitation being facilitated by those outside the Nigerian community. Sexual
exploitation cases also were more likely to involve a stranger than the domestic servitude
Furthermore, in West African sex trafficking cases in Europe, many trafficking ‘victims’
become Madams themselves. 276The criminal networks are made up of cells composed of
replaceable individuals. Hence arresting only part of the cell, as stakeholders say is usually
the case, does not destroy the trafficking network.
Similarly there is a “misconstrued idea of victims”.277 A stakeholder told us that from their
experience, “These people are often feisty women – yet people have the view that they are
weak and wouldn’t say boo to a goose.278” One example in 2011 involved two Nigerian
women who had been trafficked and were refused entry into Spain because they had false
passports. The two women had to be handcuffed because they were “biting and spitting279
at the border staff.
273 Elizabeth Willmot-Harrop noted however that “there is often not just one trafficker [it] is often a chain
where many people are “traffickers” but have a different part of the process
274 IPPR Report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2013
275“Traffickers might square it with themselves that they are ‘rescuing’ someone from extreme poverty, giving
them a roof over their head etc. however the victim may not be there willingly and their treatment is
horrendous” Interview with Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2012
276 For example in the case of “LM, DG & MB - These three women defendants have been convicted of
offences of controlling prostitution, for the gain of themselves or another, contrary to s 53 Sexual Offences
Act 2003” and yet they were also described as potential victims of trafficking.
277 Evidence from a source at the UK Border Force, 2013
278 Anonymous stakeholder
279 ibid
Shadow City | 55
Nigerian community
Cultural expectations
“I got a sense, anecdotally, that some people in the community are turning a blind eye”280
Not only may the ‘exploiter’ of a child in domestic servitude be unaware that they are doing
anything wrong, but some members of the West African community in the UK may
similarly accept such arrangements. Many of the respondents exploited in closed domestic
settings, who the IPPR engaged with, had had some form of wider engagement with the
community, for example “carrying out chores at parties, caring for other families’ children
or attending church.” 281 Some people in the community may then be aware of this house
help, but will be unaware of the level of abuse and deception involved and so may even look
on it favourably or at least not see it as exploitation.
Some members of the community who know these children do not belong to the family may
instead be simply aware of the terribly limited options available to these children in parts of
West Africa. This was recently highlighted in an article about two teenagers from Benin who
had moved to Nigeria, and had to dredge sand to sell for cement. They had to dive into oil-
polluted waters with weights attached to them and then kick their way back to the surface
with bucket after bucket weighed with sand. They earned $1 for each 15-seat canoe they
loaded with sand. In spite of this hardship, “Segun says he considers himself lucky to be
working…. returning to Benin has never been an option. "If I go back, I can only be a thief."
The local punishment for thieves was being burnt alive, he says.”282
Cherifa Atoussi said, “Nigerians are concerned when they learn about these [trafficking]
cases but there is [already] a sense often that it is out there. Some Nigerians …mistakenly
believe that it is ... a “better life”... [than being on the streets]. But once they are aware of
the extent of the violence, they will denounce and refer cases on.”283
However, another challenge is the “culture of silence in the African community.”284 One
charity working with the African community told me that some communities are more open
about their issues, but we are a “closed culture… which makes it unbearable for
people…One of our biggest problems – we don’t call the police.”285” This was partly linked
to the fact that, in light of being a minority who has suffered discrimination and due to a
perception that society tends to blacklist minorities, they were wary of “blowing a whistle
on the community” due to a fear that “someone else’s problem will then also become your
problem. [You] feel defensive of the community.”286
280 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
281 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, 2013
282 Benin's poverty pushes youngsters into the employ of child traffickers by Monica Mark,, 27
November 2012
283 Interview with Andy Desmond and Cherifa Atoussi, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
284 Evidence from stakeholder working with the African community in London
285 In evidence from an interview with an NGO supporting BME victims of domestic violence
286 Evidence from stakeholder working with the African community in London
Shadow City | 56
Community relations
However, when victims do escape, they tend to look for someone speaking their dialect or
who looks West African, or they go to a church or a community location.287 Therefore the
community and agencies linked with them have a crucial role to play as mediators between
trafficked people and UK statutory services. However, there is currently a lack of
awareness-raising in these communities about the indicators and there is also a lack of
information about how individuals or groups should respond and who to go to if a victim
does come forward.
Andy Desmond and Cherifa Atoussi highlighted that their community work meant that they
received more referrals than the police. They said that, without engaging properly, “you will
A number of stakeholders also said that the police and other authorities needed to work
more with cultural NGOs and community organisations. Education was seen as key to
gaining more intelligence and ensuring more victims would come forward. John Torres, US
Special Agent on Immigration, within Homeland Security Investigations, stated that you had
to “work with communities and NGOs... Victims aren't going to trust us.. [the community
organisations and NGOs] will give us tips we can then investigate.289
However Marai Larasi, Executive Director of Imkaan,290 said, “We are really bad at
community mobilisation in the UK. To address any issue within marginalised communities
we need to listen to them first before we ask any questions: ask what are your concerns,
not ours,...and how can we help.”291
At the moment I was told, “These communities have zero incentive to report.”292 By doing
so they risk stigmatising their community and have no reason to believe the authorities will
act adequately. We need to create a cultural change but to do so you need trust. “It isn’t
there now, but it can be done!”293
While such community work is a slow, arduous and money driven exercise, several
stakeholders felt that, “Loads of money has been thrown at [ineffective] community
engagement. But it hasn’t made a blind bit of difference.”294
It has been suggested that as a starting point, local authorities should appoint community
liaison officers for particular nationalities, including from the Nigerian community. They
could then run training sessions and act as a mediator between the community and
287 Interview with Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2012
288 Interview with Andy Desmond and Cherifa Atoussi, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
289 Conference: Tackling Human Trafficking in Europe: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, 30th January
2013,Silken Berlaymont Hotel
290 UK-based, black feminist organisation dedicated to addressing violence against women and girls.
291 Evidence from Marai Larasi and Sumanta Roy, Imkaan, Meeting, City Hall 2012
292 Ibid
293 ibid
294 Ibid
Shadow City | 57
authorities and as a contact point for anyone wishing to disclose knowledge of trafficking.
Imkaan however warned against using the “archetype community spokesperson”295 who is
“often male, sometimes self-appointed and can never truly be representative of the
community they speak for - as no one individual can ever be the sole representative of any
‘community’.”296 The Mayor of Enfield stated at a recent Afruca event that action “must be
led by us” 297 and certainly community leaders should encourage engagement with the
However, one of the key focal points of the community, highlighted to us repeatedly, were
Churches and Church leaders. Afruca said, “The Church is so powerful – it has a lot of
control over the community.”
There are already signs that the Metropolitan Police Service is increasing their engagement
with communities. At an April 2013 discussion at the ‘Faiths Forum for London’
Conference, which was attended by the Commissioner, the Metropolitan Police said they
“could be setting up help points in faith buildings such as churches and mosques, in an
attempt to better engage with diverse faith communities… Other ideas included
encouraging faith communities to “adopt a cop”.”298 The East London Mosque in Tower
Hamlets already has police information points and something similar should be established
within Nigerian churches in London.
While many stakeholders emphasized the need to work more closely with the Church, they
also echoed an air of caution about the fact that there were ‘false pastors’ 299 as you didn’t
need a certificate to become one. Furthermore, we were told that “it is normal in Nigeria
to have a house girl who is given board/education in exchange for servitude – there is a lot
of silence around it [and it is] not seen as child abuse by the church.300
Cases involving Pastors
Pastors have even been involved in trafficking. One domestic violence charity working with
the African community mentioned a case they had dealt with last year where a married
pastor brought a girl over as a domestic slave. He took away her passport, beat her, got her
pregnant and then said he would report her if she didn’t terminate the child.
A famous recent case involved ‘pastor’ Lucy Adeniji, an illegal immigrant who entered the
country on a tourist visa and then used false passports to remain here, and then brought
children between the ages of 11 and 21 from Nigeria to work as slaves for her family. They
295 ibid
296 Ibid
297 A Seminar on Child Protection and African Parents in the UK, House of Commons Grand Committee
Room, November 2012
298 The Metropolitan Police Service to increase presence in faith communities , EastLondonLines, April 25,
2013 Sean Mullervy
299 In evidence from an interview with Debbie Ariyo and Lola Gani-Yusuf, Afruca , 2012
300 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims 2012
Shadow City | 58
had to work up to 21 hours a day, were regularly beaten, once until loss of consciousness,
with one victim claiming they were attacked with pepper which was sprayed in her eyes and
genitals. Yet Adeniji was known at her evangelical church, TLCC Ministries, as the Reverend
Lucy Williams, and she also worked part-time for Newham Council as a youth worker and
was outwardly a ‘pillar of the community’.
One organisation told us that a number of other traffickers in this case were not taken to
court. One was a pastor, who was also an immigrant official, at a Church in one London
Borough. The victims all met each other and learnt of each other’s similar predicament
when they were taking care of their respective family’s children at the Church’s crèche. I
was informed that “the head pastor at the time still works there.”301 I heard about a number
of other cases involving pastors or communities centred around another church and I was
told that “the Church is part and parcel of the abuse - not of trafficking per se always but it
is the locus302” and indirectly acts as a facilitator and also as a rescue point for trafficking
victims. Therefore there is a huge opportunity for the authorities to work with Church
communities to examine the indicators around trafficking.
If the Government and Mayor wish to tackle trafficking and accept that many victims are
Nigerian and that their exploitation is often not organised, then it is imperative that the
Mayor starts to engage with Churches and listens to their concerns. This is a challenge due
to the lack of knowledge about this community. Most local authorities are unable to give a
comprehensive list of the churches in their borough. Indeed some religious ceremonies take
place “in people’s sheds [or have] 10-50 members in a basement... [and one trafficking case
involved a community who met in a] pub.”303 However, there are also large church
ministries such as the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Brent Cross which has
approximately 500 branches.
One stakeholder told us, “We have tried to work with pastors and asked them what are
you doing about this problem. But it’s a huge challenge. We aren't getting churches on
board. Even if they are against it, they are not speaking out against trafficking in public. At
best, they say, “We can raise this once or twice” but if they press too hard they are fearful
that people will stop attending church.”304 However, conversely, from other stakeholders,
we have heard about a lot of positive work from, for example, the Congolese church who
recently highlighted to their congregation that Juju was not socially acceptable.305 I have also
been told there are many pastors, such as Pastor Nims Obunge, who are vocal about issues
such as abuse and who would no doubt welcome more engagement and support from the
Many children who are victims of domestic servitude may attend a school for an initial
period after moving to the UK, if not until they are adults. Professor Barling spoke of one
boy who had been registered in a number of Haringey Schools, even though he was illegally
301 In evidence from an interview with Debbie Ariyo and Lola Gani-Yusuf, Afruca , 2012
302 ibid
303 Ibid
304 Anonymous source who works with BME victims of abuse.
305 Evidence from Professor Barling, City Hall, 2013
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here. However, when he wanted to apply to university he was unable to as he was an illegal
alien. Professor Barling said that “even the most obdurate trafficker wants to get a child into
education because this disguises what they are doing.”306 Therefore schools are a key part of
the process of tackling human trafficking. Nonetheless, I was told that “schools aren’t
familiar with this kind of practice. So it always falls under the radar; until there [is] a point of
conflict.”307 Professor Barling highlighted that schools may be accused of racism if they raise
their concerns about a Nigerian child’s welfare, therefore often feel that they can’t delve too
deeply into the families they may be concerned about.
In our survey of London teachers 46.7% of social workers and 33% of teachers could not
recognise a Nigerian child, brought over to the UK to live with a family and carrying out
chores in their house while not going to school, as a human trafficking victim.308
Stakeholders felt that schools needed to be more vigilant to the indicators of trafficking and
be aware of who they needed to consult if they had concerns. There should also be a
process to ask more questions when a new child arrives in a school. A source from the
Metropolitan Police said that in Scotland, schools “physically hold the [migrant] child’s
passport to check if they are registered and safe.”309 There are apparently plans to follow
the same course of action here. However, the police admitted that this will simply “pick up
on a huge number of illegal children in school who aren’t trafficked and a small number of
trafficked cases.”310 Such a result supports Dr Agustín’s concerns that tools to tackle
trafficking are largely used to monitor and control immigration.
Challenges to prosecution
Prosecutions – organised focus
The current prosecution framework has been criticised as being “heavily focused ...on...
addressing ‘organised criminal networks’”311 which thus fails to capture many West African
cases involving ordinary citizens who are also traffickers and exploiters.”312 The CSJ report,
It Happens Here, describes this as an unhelpful misnomer and as “a legacy of the initial
police response to this crime a decade ago.”313 The IPPR report on Nigerian trafficking
suggests that greater outreach and engagement by the UKHTC with communities is a key
way to strengthen prosecutions in this area.
306 Evidence from Professor Barling, City Hall, 2013
307 Evidence from Professor Barling, City Hall, 2013
308 See survey, Page 215
309 Evidence from s source in SC&07, 2013
310 Ibid
311 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington,
312 ibid
313 It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice Report, 2013
Shadow City | 60
A 2013 EU report314 highlighted that Nigerian cases were the largest non-EU case load in
Europe. Yet when it examined prosecutions, the vast majority of the prosecuted traffickers
came from the EU Member States; and, of the non-EU states, “Albania, Morocco, Russia and
Turkey are the most common countries of citizenship of the prosecuted non-EU traffickers.
Only 20 Nigerian traffickers were prosecuted in the whole of Europe in 2010.”315 Elizabeth
Willmott-Harrop, a Consultant and Writer Specialising in Women and Child Rights
Advocacy, has said this challenge is “compounded by the difficulty of Nigerian law
enforcement in securing prosecutions, making the intervention of law enforcement officers
in receiving countries all the more important. .. UNESCO further notes that ‘a combination
of corrupt officials, complicit authorities, and weak laws combine to guarantee impunity for
traffickers while increasing the plight of trafficked persons.”’316
Types of control
The authorities face a number of obstacles when trying to prosecute West African cases.
One of these is the forms of control used against the victims. As Irina Todorva, from the
IOM, pointed out: “We no longer see classical types of trafficking now.”317 The classical
perception of a victim is a chained person who is physically brutalised. However, Anti-
Slavery International told us that these types of victims were seen ten years ago but that
now traffickers were more adept at avoiding criminalisation. Now victims may have a
certain level of ‘freedom’318 so that they can contact families, have small wage packets, and
while the threat of violence may be there, no violence may even take place. This gives the
illusion that they are not trafficked. I was told that exploiters have changed from violent
tactics to being the “good guys”319 who are “here to help you.”
Dr Laura Agustin sees serious, violent trafficking cases as a minority and most other
'trafficking' cases as simply part of migration and aspiration. Therefore one could assume by
this theory that many non-violent, so-called 'traffickers' are indeed so-called "good guys"320
and to assume otherwise if the "victim" does not see it is as thus is to deny the "victim"
agency. While this is important to keep in mind, it is clear that many West African cases
that do not have 'chains' and violence involved, still involve shocking levels of coercion and
exploitation that under British law, cannot be allowed to continue.
Nigerian traffickers pervert a traditionally benign spirit-based belief system, known as Juju,
to psychologically control their victim. The traffickers make the victims go to a shrine where
314 Trafficking in Human Beings, Eurostat, European Commission, 2013, page 78
315 Ibid
316 Ties that bind: African witchcraft and contemporary slavery by Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop,
317 Conference: Tackling Human Trafficking in Europe: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, 30th January
2013,Silken Berlaymont Hotel
318 ibid
319 ibid
320 ibid
Shadow City | 61
they participate in ritual oath taking.321 Victims may consensually agree to undergo the
ceremony believing that the ritual will protect them. While agreeing to pay the debt under
oath, they often have no understanding of the foreign currency discussed or are tricked in
other ways.322 Traffickers control victims by using Juju because it is such a powerful weapon
of coercion. Afruca told us, “Victims are made to believe that if they go against their
traffickers in any way or form, there will be severe repercussions [from the spirit world]
such as death for them or their loved ones.” Andy Desmond, a former Detective in the
Metropolitan Police Service and an expert in Nigerian human trafficking explained, “She will
feel she swore an oath and [so there is] nothing she can do. She can’t escape because the
traffickers have bits of her from the ritual (nail clippings, hair etc.) so [they tell her that]
‘wherever you go we can find you using these’.”323
While this form of control is alien to British authorities, witchcraft is very powerful in parts
of Africa and has been integrated into both the Christian culture in the south and Islamic
culture in the north of the country. Juju does not even need the threat of violence as victims
will “do things freely.”324
When African child victims escape the children’s home they have been put in, to join their
trafficker, Andy Desmond explained that while “People see this as outrageous and blame the
children’s home….the problem is the victim feels they have to escape as they believe they
will die otherwise due to the ritual. Even [if they were put] in a prison they would find a way
out. They have to.”325
Not only does this form of control manipulate the victim and potentially extricate the
trafficker from being charged, it also conceals itself as a form of coercion. Most victims are
unwilling to discuss being coerced in this way. The consensual element of this type of
control makes the victim feel in league with the trafficker who has ‘rescued’ them from
Nigeria and used no overt violence. Critically also, once someone has been recruited, the
sort of violence they face is rarely overtly physical.
In the 2008 Regina v O case326 the courts noted that, "She makes no mention of the Witch
Doctor in Nigeria or any of the information provided by the Poppy Project. As such, we are
to deal with her on her instructions and her instructions alone.”327
However, Andy Desmond explained, “Juju is like fight club – you don’t talk about Juju” and
“Nigerian Christians may not admit they believe in this because there is a risk of death in
talking about it. We are not Nigerian – this is part of the reason we are so successful as we
321 The ritual may involve being cut with razor blades, stripped, having body hair removed, and raw animal
organs ingested. Traditional priests are often used for this ceremony and will have willingly taken part for
financial gain.
322 (“You are an 18 year old told you will pay 670,000.. you only later finds out this is in Euros not local
currency and then you don’t receive most of the money you earns. It costs 60Euros per client and she earns 1
Euro of it after paying for clothes, her square of ground; food…” Evidence from Andy Desmond, Anti-
trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
323 Evidence from Andy Desmond, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
324 Ibid
325 Ibid
326 2008] EWCA Crim 2835
327 Ibid
Shadow City | 62
aren’t scared of Juju. I have had a Nigerian interpreter run out of the room because she was
scared to even talk about Juju.”328
Andy Desmond helped convict Anthony Harrison in 2010, who was charged with trafficking
two Nigerian girls who had been controlled by Juju magic. Dr Harris, who appeared as an
expert witness at the trial, said: "The rituals they underwent, which were particularly
terrifying, were to instil a maximum amount of terror and imprint on these two very
vulnerable young women that they mustn’t step out of line or give any information about
their experiences." 329
This was the first successful case of its kind in Europe. But it took two years for the police
to induce the victims to relay their experiences and this was in part due to fear created by
the Juju ritual. However, a number of stakeholders including a source from the police, a
source based at Heathrow, and Andy Desmond who used to be in the Trafficking Unit, told
us that police like a “turnaround of six weeks”.330 Yet closure in such cases often takes
Carolina Albuerne, who has extensive experience of working with victims of trafficking, told
us that she worked on a case over two years, through two failed asylum attempts, where
the young woman had been coerced with Juju, “but she wouldn’t reveal anything because
she believed bad things would happen to everyone associated with her if she does. She
would say, if I didn’t look well, that this was due to my work with her.”331
Another challenge of the use of Juju is that victims risk being misunderstood in a Western
environment where this form of coercion and control is not fully comprehended. 332 As
Philip Ishola from the Counter Human Trafficking Bureau (CHTB) explained, “Juju
doesn’t translate well to us in the West [with our] supposedly sophisticated understanding
of techniques by which people are controlled, and it certainly doesn't connect with parochial
boroughs [in London]. Why would [it]?”333
Trust in authorities
Another challenge however is the fact that many Nigerian victims have low estimations of
the authorities due to negative experiences in their homeland. Andy Desmond, who had
worked in the Metropolitan Police Service Trafficking Unit said, “When I first met one
victim, she thought I would sell her. It took six months to just get her to talk to me. One
328 Evidence from Andy Desmond, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
329 BBC News - Trafficked girls controlled by Juju magic rituals, 7 Jul 2011. For example, Girl A endured a ritual
in which she was stripped and cut with a razorblade so her blood could be collected. Her body hair was
shaved off and she was forced to lie naked in a closed coffin for hours. She then had to eat a raw chicken
330 Evidence from Andy Desmond, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
331 Evidence from Carolina Albuerne, Refugee and Human Trafficking Specialist, at City Hall, 2013
332 Andy Desmond: “When I first explained the difficulties of getting victims to give evidence against their
traffickers because of their fears of being cursed and punished by the spirit world, my colleagues at Scotland
Yard were pretty bemused.” A Bewitching Economy: Witchcraft and Human Trafficking Traditional beliefs in
witchcraft are being used by human traffickers to silence their victims. Article | 17 September 2012 | By
Elizabeth Willmott-Harrop
333 Interview with Philip Ishola and Peter Dolby, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, 2013
Shadow City | 63
year later she still felt I could be bought by her traffickers. Poverty [means that] life is
cheap.”334 I was told that many simply “can’t give evidence in some cases in Africa because
traffickers are friends with the police.”335 Another complexity of these cases is that often
many victims are “not… entirely innocent - so already they don’t like or trust police.”336 I
was also told that victims are told by their exploiters that they risk imprisonment if they go
to the police337 and stakeholders told me that, because of the difficulty to be recognised as a
trafficking victim, traffickers may be correct in warning victims that they will be deported if
they go to the authorities.
I heard of one case where someone from the victim’s extended family brought her over as
domestic worker, where she was then also sold for sex to the man’s acquaintances and
recorded for pornography. When she fled, the exploiter had the confidence to report her
as an illegal immigrant to the Home Office. She went to court and won the case and so she
wasn’t sent back. However, the exploiter’s confidence was not misplaced as she refused to
prosecute for trafficking and rape “because she was scared.338
The IPPR report, Beyond Borders, highlighted that the victim’s lack of knowledge in the
British system acted as a control mechanism – sometimes in place of any substantive control
by the trafficker. The “lack of awareness of (alternative) support on the part of victims and a
fear that they would not be supported if they left their trafficking situation: a belief on the
part of victims that their choice is either to stay with their trafficker or to be removed back
to their previous life of abuse (and face possible retribution from their trafficker) in Nigeria”
holds them in check.339
Furthermore, when they do eventually escape, this lack of awareness keeps them in a
vulnerable situation where they are then at risk of being re-trafficked. A number of
stakeholders highlighted that there was no overarching organisation to ensure that
victims were properly referred between different agencies offering support. This led to gaps
in the service provided and in accountability.
Family pressure
Focusing only on Juju as a form of control has apparently led to some victims, who had been
warned about trafficking, to assume they would not be trafficked due to the lack of Juju
involved in their initial recruitment.340 While sex trafficking often involves Juju as a form of
334 Evidence from Andy Desmond, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, City Hall, 2102
335 Evidence from Cherifa Atoussi , Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, City Hall, 2102
336 Evidence from Andy Desmond, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, City Hall, 2102
337 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
338 In evidence from an interview with an NGO supporting BME victims of domestic violence
339 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington
340 Ibid: “They associated it with prostitution in Italy and with related dimensions such as Juju rites.
Consequently, those travelling to the UK without experiencing any Juju prior to the journey did not realise
that they too might be in danger”
Shadow City | 64
control, I was told that domestic trafficking more often involved family pressure, with
relatives unable to ‘fathom that life could be bad here”.341 Sometimes it is they who force
the victim to stay. I was given a number of examples, including a case from one stakeholder
where a girl was being raped, living with an abusive man. When she called her family, they
said, “We paid money so do what he says.”342 As well as pressure from the family, 343 many
victims fear that their families, learning of their abuse and seeming humiliation, will judge
them for failing to succeed abroad and for being exploited.
The cultural sensitivities around the use of Juju, attitudes towards authority and family
pressures highlight the need for authorities to possess knowledge on whichever community
they are dealing with when tackling a specific trafficking case. Afruca and anti-trafficking
Consultant Cherifa Atoussi felt that this emphasized the need for cultural mediators and
people who spoke the languages of the victims. Philip Ishola, from the Counter Human
Trafficking Bureau (CHTB), felt that the inevitable lack of understanding by many
Government officers and authorities demonstrated “why assistance is a necessary part of
the new model we would like to have in place. Someone who comes to that borough and
says: How can we help you address your statutory responsibilities [in this particular
trafficking case].” 344
In April 2009, the Government introduced new procedures to examine the cases of
individuals believed to be trafficked and this was called the ‘National Referral Mechanism’
(NRM).345 The NRM “is a framework for identifying victims of human trafficking and ensuring
they receive the appropriate protection and support.”346 However, I have also been told by
some stakeholders that it is not so much an identification tool but a “gateway to services”
for victims.347
There has been an increase in the number of referrals into the NRM of potential victims of
trafficking from Nigeria over the last few years. But a number of charities and lawyers have
told me that West African victims are not being recognised as victims of trafficking by the
NRM and are one of the most likely groups to be rejected by the NRM.
341Anonymous source working with victims of trafficking
342 Ibid
343 Relevant case recorded by the IPPR report Beyond Borders: “one respondent was abused constantly by her
host, yet when the victim asked to be taken back to Nigeria, the exploiter did so, yet after discussions with her
family, the victim was made to beg forgiveness and was then sent back to the UK.”
344 Interview with Philip Ishola and Peter Dolby, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, 2013
345 However, the NRM has received a lot of criticism for ‘the quality of the decisions, the poor impression
given to victims, the lack of an appeals process and the failure to gather comprehensive data on the scale of
the problem’- Frank Field, Westminster Hall, Debate on Human Trafficking, 18 May 2011
346 In evidence from meeting with ECPAT UK, 2013
347 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013)
Shadow City | 65
Bias against Nigerian victims
A Government source told us that, “Year on year since 2009 we have seen an increase in
referrals to the NRM. We are also improving the number of those who get referred on.”348
But we have been told by some stakeholders that they have seen the number of their
referrals of non-EU citizens accepted as trafficked victims reducing, while other stakeholders
have simply seen referrals rise, while non-EU acceptances remain stagnant. 349
Government Minister Mark Harper said, “We do not accept the interpretation of the data
presented, by the Council of Europe's Group of Experts on Trafficking (GRETA), of a 21%
positive outcome rate for non-EEA cases… A realistic picture of the position, between 01
January 2012 and 31 December 2012 there were 755 non-EEA cases with a Reasonable
Grounds conclusion. Of these 502 (66%) were positive and the individual was granted
access to a recovery and reflection period. During the same period 328 non-EEA cases
were decided at the Conclusive Grounds stage and 183 (56%) of these were positive.”350
There is nonetheless evidence to suggest that nationals from outside of the EU have
consistently received a disproportionate number of negative decisions. A large number of
stakeholders working in the legal and NGO sectors felt that there is a hierarchy of victims
and that the system puts more emphasis on the immigration status of the presumed
trafficked persons, rather than the alleged trafficking crime committed against them.
In one study, UK citizens referred into the NRM were found to be quickly identified as
trafficked with 76 per cent of cases positively identified.351 Meanwhile, nationals from other
EU states had a success rate of 29.2 per cent, while those from outside the EU had only a
11.9 per cent success rate.352
In NRM statistics January to March 2013353 only 6 of 43 Nigerian adults and minors received
a positive conclusive decision. Meanwhile 34 of 41 Polish victims received a positive
conclusive decision.
The ATMG described the “difference in success [as] startling” 354 I was told that this may be
linked to the fact that the “UKBA has immigration quotas while the UKHTC [doesn’t] have
them. This makes a difference as non EU victims go through the UKBA not UKHTC.”355
Standard of evidence
One problem I have repeatedly been told was that the standard of evidence required is set
too high in the NRM. One NGO said that the “NRM’s problem is they work from the angle
348 Meeting with A Government source, 2013
349 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013 and from Kate Roberts
from Kalayaan, Meeting in Kalayaan headquarters, 2013
350 Home Affairs Committee, Written Evidence, July, 2013,
351 Wrong kind of victim, Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, 2010
352 Ibid
353 NRM Statistics, January to March 2013, SOCA website, July 2013
354Wrong kind of victim, Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, 201
355 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
Shadow City | 66
of assuming they are illegally trying to immigrate here.”356 One charity working with the
African community said, “Most of the time a victim is treated as an illegal immigrant rather
than victim of rape, abuse and trafficking”.357 I also heard criticism of the NRM staff’s
training and that they “base their decision on credibility, but credibility is not a stipulated
criterion prescribed by the UK’s international obligations to identify victims of trafficking …
[it should not be] treated like an asylum case.358
ECPAT UK said, “Experience shows the UKBA finds it difficult to put to one side its
immigration control role when exercising its function as a Competent Authority. Despite
asserting that the two processes are distinct and separate, in reality they have become
conflated. The reasoning used to dismiss the credibility of a victim of trafficking, such as late
disclosure and inconsistencies in a child’s account, often reflects that used in asylum
determinations, particularly if the same case-owner is tasked with making a decision for both
the NRM and the individual’s asylum claim.” Some stakeholders even feel that it is easier to
be recognised as trafficked through the asylum system than the NRM. Indeed solicitors may
advise their clients who have been trafficked against going through the NRM because they
believe a lack of training of UK Border Force staff in the NRM system means victims are too
likely to get rejected and that this NRM decision would then impact on their asylum or
housing claim359. A legal practitioner has said that they have seen many asylum
refusals where significant portions of a negative NRM decision have been “replicated word
for word in the reasons for refusal.” 360 They said the NMR decision can “feed
disproportionately into a substantive asylum decision”361 and can make it very difficult to see
the apparent independence of the competent authority.
A common suggestion I have heard is that the NRM needs to be independent of the UK
Border Force and entire immigration system. This would help ensure their decisions are
made from a more victim-focused perspective, without the influence of Government related
expectations on immigration numbers and credibility.
Not believed
As well as the standard of credibility being set too high, African victims “are just not
believed” and are “almost always treated as criminals.362” This “persistent culture of
disbelief” reminded Tony Murphy, a partner at London law firm, Bhatt Murphy, of the
problems he used to face with victims of domestic violence. He said he can’t “believe I have
to go through all the same arguments now with police on trafficking issue as we used to
have to do with gender violence!”363
As a result of this, stakeholders told us that African victims will often not go through the
NRM. “Why would you put yourself through that? It’s better to just get another job if you
356 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
357 ibid
358 Evidence from A stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013
359 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
360 Evidence from a legal practitioner, 2013
361 ibid
362 Interview with Myriam Cherti and Jenny Pennington, IPPR, 2012
363 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors , 2012
Shadow City | 67
manage to escape.”364 Anti-trafficking Consultant Andy Desmond explained that the “NRM
doesn’t work for victims who believe in Juju because they will always give a script [or]...The
same story as 10 other African girls that day… [and] lie to start with, which affects the
process. All the women will give the same script which makes the NRM not trust
them.” But they will have been forced to give this script by their traffickers under the threat
of breaking their Juju oath. Rejected cases, such as the one involving Tijina,365 also have the
effect of putting other victims off turning to the authorities because they fear they will also
not be believed. As a result, some NGOs thought the NRM needed specialist groups to
work with them to help identify victims.
The age challenge
The challenges around proving that a child victim is indeed a child is also a repeated concern
with African victims. Traffickers may use a child’s young age to abuse the care home system
and use it as a “holding pen’366 until they are ready to pick them up. On the other hand, they
may “want children to seem older so that they evade attention of authorities.” 367 However,
when child victims meet the authorities their false documents and the lack of universal birth
registration in Nigeria results in the authorities often not believing that they are children.
Several NGOs and one council source even noted that adult victims of trafficking are funded
nationally while child victims must be supported by boroughs – this risks incentivising
authorities to miscalculate a child’s age.
One NGO gave an example where a trafficked girl “had documents saying she was 26 but
was actually 14... And authorities accepted [her] passport age even though they accepted
that the document [ itself was) fake.”368 In 2011, an African teenage girl - who had been
trafficked into the UK at the age of 5 to be a domestic slave for a couple in Wembley and
then Hillingdon - won a legal battle against Hillingdon Council who, after she escaped from
slavery, removed her from foster care after the council disputed her age and said she was
not eligible for support.
Afruca noted that a recent report by Coram Children's Legal Centre, revealed that social
workers were wrongly classifying hundreds of asylum–seeking children, including child
victims of trafficking, as adults.369
364 Interview with Cherifa Atoussi and Andy Desmond, Anti-trafficking consultants,
365 Tijina pleaded guilty to using a false identity document and fraud by producing a false National Insurance
card. She had lived in London for two years after escaping from domestic abuse. She then was imprisoned and
forced to prostitute herself. The court concluded that, whatever the truth, the defendant had been entirely
free of any form of exploitation in the months before the offences were committed.
366 Term used in Children and Young People Now, Child traffickers may be using care homes as 'holding pens',
By Ben Willis, Friday 15 May 2009
367 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
368 Evidence from ECPAT UK, 2013
369 Home Affairs Committee, Written Evidence, July, 2013
Shadow City | 68
Abusing the system?
I am concerned by a number of cases described to me where the victims are struggling to
be recognised by the authorities. However, many living outside the EU, including in Africa,
do wish to live in the UK and are willing to abuse the system in order to do so. While a
large number of negative responses to NRM referrals involve Nigerian victims, I was told
that many “trafficking referrals result from failed asylum cases”.370 A person may come to
the notice of authorities and be discovered to have no right to remain here. Following failed
appeals for asylum, they will then claim they were trafficked a number of years ago. While I
have no doubt that such a situation can arise, I am concerned that there is a definite view by
some officials that if a person had been a victim of trafficking then they would have
immediately gone to authorities after they had escaped. For, as the above descriptions of
family pressures, Juju, lack of trust in the authorities and so forth reveal, Nigerian victims
appear to be much less likely to do this.
I have also been told that the NRM classification is limited to those who are in a trafficking
situation at the time of reporting or who are in a situation as a direct result of trafficking.
This leads to NRM officials apparently accepting that someone who is vulnerable may have
been trafficked, but still not allowing the victim to formally take this status, to ensure they
cannot access trafficking related support.371
Police and NRM data
The NRM is also not adequately joined up with police intelligence. Other ‘first
responders’ (organisations allowed to refer victims into the NRM) can refer a victim to the
NRM without the police themselves ever being made aware of the case. “In the months
between June and September 2012, for example, just 24 per cent of adult NRM referrals
came from the police. This means that in 76 per cent of cases in this period the police may
have no knowledge of the potential situations of modern slavery that have taken place in
their region.”372
The result of these problems within the NRM system is that the NRM fails to be effective as
an intelligence tool to collect data - yet this is all the Government has. Many victims do not
want to engage with this system or may be advised not do so by lawyers or other advisers.
This is a real barrier to gathering effective intelligence. Indeed even though the government
uses the NRM, the UKHTC admits that the NRM does not collect data about all potential
Borough police
London is often seen as best placed to deal with human trafficking in the UK. 373 We have a
Trafficking Unit (SC&O7) within the Metropolitan Police Service and also have a human
trafficking policy and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for the force.
370 Evidence from Pam Bowen, CPS London, 2013
371 In evidence from an interview with an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
372 CSJ Report, It Happens Here, 2013
373 Evidence from Huw Watkins, City Hall 2013
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However, I have heard repeated complaints about the policing of trafficking in boroughs,
with one lawyer, Tony Murphy, from London law firm Bhatt Murphy, who worked on a
number of Nigerian cases against the police, telling me that if he came across a victim of
trafficking “I would definitely not recommend a girl go to local police.”374
The majority of organisations I spoke to said there was “a real problem with identification of
this crime”375. Tim Starkey gave me an example where one victim of trafficking went to the
police and reported the theft of her passport. The police simply went to the trafficker, who
denied possessing the passport, and the police didn’t investigate further. There was a
general view amongst stakeholders that local police saw migrant trafficking victims, such as
those from Nigeria, as “scroungers” and “as people on the make.”376 Alternatively, one
NGO working with trafficked victims told us that Police would often treat a Nigerian
victim’s claims of not being paid or having their passport removed as “an employment or
civil matter.”377 There was also an attitude of acceptance around the treatment of domestic
workers due to it being “normal” within that cultural practice – police telling victims that £5
a day was “a lot of money for someone from your country.”378
Huw Watkins, the Head of the Intelligence Hub at the UK Intellectual Property Office, who
used to be the Head of the Force Intelligence Bureau and Human Trafficking lead in Gwent
Police Force explained that it is easier for over-stretched police to “say there is nothing
going on here379” when faced with a potential victim of trafficking as it means they have to
do no further work; furthermore frontline officers often have no idea what to do with a
victim of trafficking. This is a source of great frustration for many of the stakeholders we
spoke to. Huw Watkins, a former police detective, said, “It’s a hidden crime and we could
do without the help of police trying to hide it.” 380
One stakeholder told us that back in 2012 there were officers working in the police who
were “asking us to sue [the police]” to bring police failings to the authorities’ attention.
Tony Murphy told us he had expected Judgement OOO – where Nigerian victims of
domestic trafficking, ignored by the police, won a case against the Metropolitan Police
Service - to ‘trigger serious reflection at a local level’381 but that he had not seen evidence
of this in the cases he continued to see.
However, more and more rejected cases are now being taken to court. For example, Bhatt
Murphy Solicitors are currently suing the Metropolitan Police, Home Office and the London
Borough of Newham after a Nigerian child victim of sex trafficking was discovered by police
in a brothel raid, and then locked in a cell before being released onto the streets by police.
There may soon be a tipping point where the authorities are paying out enough in
compensation to arouse their interest in tackling this issue head on.
374 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
375 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
376 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
377 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
378 ibid
379 Evidence from Huw Watkins, City Hall 2013
380 Evidence from Huw Watkins, City Hall 2013
381 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
Shadow City | 70
The central problem cited to us was a lack of will within the management of the police.
Unlike Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB) or burglary, trafficking is not a typical residents’
association issue and therefore “it just isn’t seen as a priority382” even though there is a
European legal obligation to deal with trafficking. As Chief Superintendent John Sutherland,
from the Metropolitan Police, told the CSJ,If you don’t execute a drugs warrant in your
town, then you may perceive there is no problem, because nobody’s counting it. I’m pretty
sure every town and city has a drugs problem. This is how it is with trafficking; we’re not
Moreover there is no incentive to look. As one Metropolitan Police Service Officer said -
the “problem is policing is a figure driven exercise and you just don’t get those figures with
trafficking.” 384
The only way to tackle this is if police receive direction from the top. The Counter Human
Trafficking Bureau told us that “historically Croydon police was detached around
[trafficking].”385 It was only when the Human Trafficking Unit got involved with the Borough
that they actively took the issue on, with the Borough Commander making it a second
To change attitudes on the frontline, Sergeants and Inspectors need to be aware of the issue
as they are the ones who can “change that culture”387. It is not good enough to rely on the
Human Trafficking Unit in London, as borough police and Safer Neighbourhood teams are
also “key to tackling trafficking”.388
As Professor Fitzgerald told the London Assembly, “Officers on the ground … have their
finger on the pulse and …are ... an invaluable source.. If you just debrief them regularly... you
would be ahead of the game. That source of day-to-day feedback from the streets is largely
At present we are not capitalising on that intelligence. Moreover, when Nigerian victims go
to borough police, Afruca said that the likelihood of being overlooked or even treated as a
criminal is still far too high; and yet borough police still receive many of the cases before
they can reach the Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Trafficking Unit. An NGO working
with trafficked victims said, “If a [trafficking victim] has already reported through the
boroughs, then SCD9 can’t always take on the case or are reluctant to do so.”
Philip Ishola from the CHTB suggested that we should have a SPOC (Special point of
contact), in an operational rather than senior role, in every borough, who could encourage
382 Interview with Philip Ishola and Peter Dolby, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, 2013
383 It Happens Here, Centre for Social Justice Report, 2013
384 Anonymous police source
385 Interview with Philip Ishola and Peter Dolby, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, 2013
386 Interview with Philip Ishola and Peter Dolby, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, 2013
387 Evidence from Huw Watkins, City Hall, 2013. Huw Watkins also mentioned the following: In Gwent a girl
went missing in the middle of the night. The Inspector told the officers to not return until they found her; as a
result they found her in a hotel with an older man. Their work was commended publicly in the local force and
attitudes around tackling grooming and trafficking started to change.
388 Leading NGO working with trafficking victims
389 Police and Crime Committee, January 2013
Shadow City | 71
good practice, be the go-to person for all SNTs on cases where trafficking is suspected, and
who could then refer the case onto the Human Trafficking Unit or NGOs if necessary.
The Metropolitan Police Service’s Human Trafficking Unit (SC&O7)
The Metropolitan Police Service has a dedicated Human Trafficking Unit within SC&O7.
They have a total of 37 staff who are focused on investigating all forms of human trafficking.
Approximately 45 per cent of the victims dealt with by the unit are referred to them by
NGOs using their direct victim referral scheme.390
A number of stakeholders were concerned that the Metropolitan Police Service’s Human
Trafficking Unit is expanding rather than specialising. From having a separate Trafficking Unit
back in 2008; the unit has been absorbed into the Vice unit which has then been increasingly
absorbed with other units - including fraud, extradition and prison corruption – apparently
to save money.391 A leading anti-trafficking NGO felt the Human Trafficking Unit needed to
be going in the opposite direction and required specialised units within it. They felt that
trafficking “is a very complex crime with so many different complex types so it needs
specialism… otherwise you are just scratching the surface.” 392
The vast majority of stakeholders we spoke to were very impressed with the Metropolitan
Police Service’s Human Trafficking Unit’s work and wished their good practice and expertise
could be spread across the rest of the country. Even those with occasional criticisms
mostly said they had a real willingness to learn from mistakes. Philip Ishola said that although
they “are small and have a very limited ability to respond... [they] punch way above their
However, one charity working specifically with African victims was not convinced they were
getting better. They said, “If they are getting better then they are doing things that we are
not seeing.”394 They also felt that the Metropolitan Police Service was “institutionally
racist”395 and failed to get enough evidence when victims were African due to a culture of
While this is hard to prove it is worth noting that recent evidence to the Home Affairs
Committee showed that the Salvation Army’s largest victim group came from Nigeria (14%
from July 2011- April 2013) yet of the flagged cases prosecuted in England and Wales in
January to December 2012, only 4 defendants were African. 396
Police scepticism
A number of other people told us that “police scepticism is skewed too much against
victims” and that the current starting point is [victims from Africa] are liars.”397 They also
390 Mayor’s Question 784/2013 from Steve O’Connell, 22.05.13
391 A source from the police, 2013
392 Evidence from an anonymous anti-trafficking NGO
393 Interview with Philip Ishola and Peter Dolby, Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, 2013
394 An NGO working with children in the BME community
395 Ibid
396 Home Affairs Committee evidence on human trafficking, July 2013,
397 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
Shadow City | 72
said that too much evidence and credibility of the victim was required and yet when cases
did get through to court, traffickers could “still [be] convicted even without fully reliable
consistent evidence... The Jury have to decide if the essence is credible; that is the key; not
the whole story.”398 For Tony Murphy, from Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, getting the Nigerian
cases he was seeing to court was about the “will” of the police and not whether there was
enough evidence in the initial stages. “SCD9 are always trying to jump hoops with
investigations as they apply too high a threshold for applicants or say we will never find the
culprit so there is no point in continuing the investigation.”399 He highlighted that the police
didn’t want cases that were “too tricky,”400 such as Nigerian cases, because they were
already overstretched and that they gained from quick wins.
For example, the police refused to investigate a case involving a Nigerian victim of trafficking
as they said there was no evidence available to find the trafficker. However, the Specialist,
working with the victim, then took the initiative and Googled the offender and found him
immediately online on Facebook.
In response, a source from the Anti-Trafficking unit (SC&O7) assured me, “We don’t reject
trafficking victims. It’s a fact based decision. NGOs tell us someone has been trafficked and
the evidence may simply not be there. If evidence is not there then we can’t simply say they
are a victim of trafficking.”401 Moreover they said that they were “not concerned with
targets and figure driven exercises. We act on risk and investigate if there is a case to
There was also a concern that SC&O7 raids were more “criminal gang centred … [than]
victim focused.”403 Carolina Albuerne mentioned a case in 2012 in North West London
where a Nigerian woman, being sexually exploited in a brothel, was found in a raid on a flat.
It took Carolina almost half an hour on the phone to explain why a female translator was
required rather than a male one for the interview. In another case404 a young Nigerian girl,
who went missing from care, was discovered on an SC&O7 brothel raid in 2010. The police
“showed a complete lack of support for her. No questions [were asked] about her history
or trafficking history or why a very young African woman was there. [She was] only
questioned … on her immigration history [with] no interpreter provided. Although she
provided her name, which should have revealed that she was a child missing from care,
these links were not made.”405 Carolina Albuerne says the police had “a duty to do a contact
meeting”.406 Instead the girl was handed over to borough police and put on bail, but she
absconded. It was only later, when she was again found, that she reported that she was a
victim of trafficking. Tony Murphy felt that if SC&O7 had established trust early on, this
398 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
399 ibid
400 ibid
401 Evidence from a source in SC&07, 2013
402 ibid
403 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
404 (In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012 and Evidence from
Carolina Albuerne, Refugee and Human Trafficking Specialist, at City Hall, 2013
405 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
406 Evidence from Carolina Albuerne, Refugee and Human Trafficking Specialist, at City Hall, 2013
Shadow City | 73
whole case now could have been avoided as she still had, for example, the traffickers phone
numbers at the time of the initial raid; but later lost them.
However, raids have decreased since this time and SC&O7 are believed to have improved
since this point.407 Indeed, many stakeholders suggested that the borough police, rather
than SC&O7, are the ones who are continuing to carry out ineffective or harmful raids.
One NGO working with trafficked victims suggested that police should follow up on where
the women were, after a raid, to check if they are safe, and also to ensure good
relationships are built up immediately during the raid as you then “have a far better chance
to catch criminals… Enforcement sweeps won’t get intelligence.408
Proactive work
Furthermore, there were concerns about the proactivity of the police and whether
intelligence was adequately acted on and investigated. I was repeatedly told that we expect
far too much from victims and that there was a lack of proactive investigations.
In one report about trafficking they state that “agencies perceive that they are most likely to
learn of cases of human trafficking from external sources (calls for service or general tips
from community members). This contrasts to a more pro-active approach of seeking out
cases that would be normal practice when dealing with other crimes such as drug trafficking
or organized crime. The perception that pro-active efforts are less necessary may help
explain the low numbers of agencies that have specialized personnel or protocols designed
to guide trafficking investigations.”409
A number of stakeholders410 felt that the police were not investigating how trafficking
victims had obtained their visas and this information was not being adequately used to track
criminals in Nigeria. One anti-trafficking charity said that the police “never do any debriefs
after cases to work out what routes were used etc. The problem is that everything is
treated in isolation.” Anti-Slavery International felt there should also be more questions
before raids are carried out. The police “just need to look at [the traffickers’] card numbers
straight off. Ask who rents the building off whom; who phones who; before [the] police kick
the door in they need to do that investigation.” 411
While the Metropolitan Police Service told us that the Human Trafficking Unit was one of
the most engaged units involved in proactive community work, Afruca said that the former
Trafficking Unit “used to support us to run community exercises. Now SCD9 is far
removed from the [West African] community.” A source from the Human Trafficking Unit
said they were not aware of any community work but were very open to learning more
about any such previous work. Furthermore, the Metropolitan Police has said it was
interested in “setting up help points in faith buildings such as churches and mosques, in an
407 In evidence from an interview with an NGO working with trafficked victims 2012
408 In evidence from an NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
409 Understanding and improving law enforcement responses to human trafficking by Amy Farrell, Jack McDevit
Northeastern University, 2008
410 For example, in evidence from an interview with one NGO working with trafficked victims, 2012
411 An NGO working with victims of human trafficking
Shadow City | 74
attempt to better engage with diverse faith communities”412 and this would appear to be
particularly useful in West African churches.
John Torres, a US Special Agent, said NGOs were “key to gaining intelligence since victims
don’t trust the police.” 413 But I was told by a police source that the Human Trafficking Unit
was seeing less intelligence from NGOs but more from the international community.
Whether this is because of less proactive engagement, different priorities, or simply a
change in where trafficking is taking place is not clear. However, it is clear that there is a
disconnect between many NGOs and the police. The distrust goes both ways and
intelligence appears to not be adequately shared between the two. Indeed, if an NRM
referral is made from another First Responder besides the police, this can take
place without any communication with the police, who therefore never gain key
intelligence. 414 I discovered that certain intelligence that charities had given us - such as that
there were male African brothels in South East London – had not been relayed to the
Metropolitan Police Human Trafficking Unit. Trafficking Partnerships set up in some parts of
the UK415 have helped break down these barriers and a similar model, discussed later in this
report, would be welcome in London boroughs.
One suggestion for working with African communities was to work with community media
organisations such as BenTV. Afruca told us that, after doing a cheap video on Ben TV and
OBE TV, warning about the dangers of trafficking and explaining how to obtain help, a
number of victims came forward. They felt that the TV and media were powerful tools since
domestic slaves will often be able to watch TV and access information most easily this way.
I was told that funding could be pulled from SC&O7 in the next year416. This would be a
mistake as the Trafficking Unit’s expertise is crucial in tackling trafficking. If tackling
trafficking is a genuine priority, as the Government has stated, then this unit may well
actually need to be expanded. The police I spoke to noted that the number of cases of
trafficking being identified is rapidly increasing, yet the funding for police and other
stakeholders has remained the same.
However, Anti-Slavery International and Unseen felt that police do not “follow the
money”417 enough and that if the police did more criminal investigations into the money
driving traffickers then “it may pay for itself.”418 It was even suggested that this could
412 The Metropolitan Police Service to increase presence in faith communities, EastLondonLines, April 25, 2013
Sean Mullervy
413 Conference: Tackling Human Trafficking in Europe: Prevention, Protection, Prosecution, 30th January
2013,Silken Berlaymont Hotel
414 “In the months between June and September 2012, for example, just 24 per cent of adult NRM referrals
came from the police. This means that in 76 per cent of cases in this period the police may have no knowledge
of the potential situations of modern slavery that have taken place in their region.” CSJ, It Happens Here, 2013
415 Huw Watkins gave evidence to us about the success of the Anti-trafficking multiagency group he helped to
set up in Gwent, which helped to break down the disconnect between the police and the third sector.
416 Evidence from Andrew Wallis, CEO of Unseen, at City Hall, 2013
417 Evidence from Andrew Wallis, CEO of Unseen, at City Hall, 2013
418 Meeting with Klara Skrivankova from Anti-Slavery International
Shadow City | 75
become part of the funding model.419 But there is a risk that if this did become the funding
model, the police would target those criminals whose money is most easily available, rather
than those criminals doing the most harm.
While some stakeholders told us that trafficking has a “multimillion-pound response”420
others felt SC&O7, specifically, lacked sufficient resources.421 However, Solicitor Tony
Murphy said, “SCD9 would blame a lack of resources/time and targets. But I think will is
key.”422 Nevertheless, the cost of not carrying out effective investigations should act as a
warning to the Metropolitan Police, who were successfully taken to court by a number of
Nigerian child victims of domestic trafficking who were ignored by the police. 423
The problem of Britain being used as a transit country was highlighted as early as the late
1990s and early 2000. A BBC article in 2001 said they had “learnt that many of the hundreds
of girls from Nigeria sold into sexual slavery in Europe each year have been trafficked
through England… Young girls were arriving from West Africa and claiming asylum at major
British airports. Because they were under 18, they were then taken into the care of social
services and placed in children's homes or foster care.”424 When this article was written,
England was cited as being used “because the Italian authorities have become increasingly
alert to direct flights from West Africa, the traffickers now use other European countries
like Britain and France as staging posts.”425
However, the Home Office assured us that border staff were abreast of the issue and have
been working to disrupt the criminal networks involved. I was also informed that UK
Border Force officers were world leaders in identity fraud. Nonetheless, cases where
London is used as a transit destination into Europe continue to re-emerge (see case
examples below). ECPAT UK, a leading children’s rights charity campaigning against child
trafficking, told us that “the fact they keep moving victims suggests that traffickers are not
scared of getting caught [at borders].”426
419 Police need to be “aggressive in the use of poca”- Evidence from Andrew Wallis, CEO of Unseen, at City
Hall, 2013
420 “This was not for lack of resources: in 2006 £28.5 million was set aside to fight human trafficking (Markon,
2007).” Quoted in Prof B Anderson’s ‘Us and Them? The dangerous politics of immigration control’, Oxford
University Press
421 Worth noting that South Yorkshire Police CC David Crompton claimed that a lack of resources was one
of the reasons why some child sex exploitation cases did not result in prosecutions
422 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
423 O.O.O. and others v Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis
424 BBC World 10 January, 2001, Trafficking nightmare for Nigerian children
425 Ibid
426 Meeting with ECPAT UK, 2013
Shadow City | 76
Case 1: In 2009, Kennedy Johnson, from Dagenham, was found guilty of trafficking 40 girls
aged 13-18 into London Gatwick from Lagos with false passports. While promising the girls
they would be hairdressers they were then sent, via Council homes, to work as prostitutes
in Italy.427
Case 2: Afruca said that after each event “there is always rhetoric but we never learn
anything.”428 And indeed, a few years on in 2011 Anthony Harrison, who worked as a
caretaker for Newham Homes - a company used by Newham Council – and who used
seven different identities and was linked to eight different addresses, was convicted for the
same type of trafficking of two girls. It appears that Harrison was related to Kennedy
Johnson and may have even taken over his post when Johnson was sent to prison. One girl
was trafficked to the UK in May 2009, and was told to go to Harrison who gave her false ID
and a plane ticket to Spain. She was stopped at the Spanish border and sent back to the UK
where she delivered a ‘script’ saying she had fled her village and sought sanctuary in a church
after being accused of being a lesbian.429
Case 3: Meanwhile in October 2012, recycling worker Osezua Osolase was found guilty of
rape and trafficking for sexual exploitation. He had ‘recruited’ 28 girls into street
prostitution in Italy via the UK over a 15-month period from 2010.430 One victim had been
given a marriage visa with a fake age to enter the UK. On leaving the UK to be taken to Italy
she was given a false passport and was told to go into London Gatwick airport’s toilet "and
make myself up exactly like the girl in the passport picture…I was praying the girl at check-
in would notice but she did not”.431 In Italy she begged passport control to help her and so
she was flown back to England. Another victim was given a stolen passport - which had
been lost by its genuine owner some years earlier - and was flown to the UK before being
taken to Italy.
Case 4: In March 2013, Odosa Usiobaifo, from Enfield, north London, was jailed for 14 years
for trafficking two Nigerian teenagers for the purposes of sexual exploitation via the UK
into mainland Europe. The girls, who were aged 14 and 15 at the time, were stopped at
Heathrow Airport separately on 17 September and 23 November 2011 using false passports
showing they were adults. They had arrived on flights from Lagos and were attempting to
transit to Paris. During interviews it became clear that the pair were being trafficked and
were placed in local authority care outside London. However, they were reported missing
by their respective foster carers and with the help of Usiobaifo were able to leave the
country with false passports to go to Spain. One of the girls was refused entry to Spain and
returned to the UK where she remains in the care of the UK authorities. The other passed
through Spanish border controls and is still missing. Usiobaifo was finally arrested at his flat
in Enfield on 3 September 2012.432
427 Example of an article on this case here:
428 In evidence from an interview with Debbie Ariyo and Lola Gani-Yusuf, Afruca , 2012
429 Example of an article on this case here:
430Example of an article on this case here:
432 Example of an article on this case here:
Shadow City | 77
This last case reveals a number of concerns about our borders. First, the ease with which
false documents may be used to potentially enter or leave the UK. Second, the fact that
once they were identified as trafficking victims they were put in a situation where they were
easily accessible to the trafficker. Third, the fact that the UK is seen by some traffickers as a
route into the rest of Europe.
Earlier this year a joint UK Border Agency and Border Force investigation, codenamed
Operation Hudson, was set up and involved law enforcement agencies in Britain and abroad.
It was targeting a number of organised crime groups suspected of trafficking young women,
via London, for the purposes of sexual exploitation.433 However, when asked if it was too
easy to get through British borders, a Government source claimed that “our system is one
of the tightest”434 in Europe. In most cases, they said, Europe is used as a transit point into
the UK and that some Schengen countries are a particular problem.
Government sources said that the recent cases illustrated above are ‘unique one offs.’435
Nevertheless, the consistent way in which these cases mirror each other, and the number
of victims in each case who never managed to escape and make it to court, suggests to
several stakeholders we spoke to that this is a known route which is used frequently.
Clearly something about British borders is amiss. It is also notable that many of the victims
above were only rescued once in other European countries.
Traffickers are also abetted by the availability of false or falsely procured documentation. I
was informed by those working with victims that it was “easy to come over with false
documents and that not a huge number of checks were made.”436 Victims relayed stories
about being registered under a different name, age, or even gender, or pretending to be the
trafficker’s child. Corruption was apparently rife within the Nigerian immigration and airport
system but another problem was the lack of in-depth questioning by UK officials due to
trade-offs with the queuing times.
I was told that the British consulate staff have 10 minutes to assess each application. Some
stakeholders felt that this was not enough time to thoroughly check forged
documents. Barrister Tim Starkey said he had “seen very obvious contradictions in the
[trafficked victim’s] documents [and] was surprised it got through in one case.”437
However, a Government source told me that some migrants will use genuine documents to
cross the border but will then present false documents once in the UK. Tony Murphy said
that careful analysis of the documents the traffickers use, such as asking for adoption papers,
“would catch most of them, as often they are very badly forged”. 438 One suggestion was
that border officials could ask the family for all relevant documentation on entry. It was also
434 Evidence from a Meeting with a Government source, 2013
435 Ibid
436 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
437 Evidence from Tim Starkey, a barrister working as an advocate and police station representative for
Hollingsworth Edwards, at City Hall 2013
438 In evidence from an interview with Tony Murphy, Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, 2012
Shadow City | 78
suggested that police in the UK should immediately look at a person’s papers when dealing
with any potential criminal issue.
A Government source explained that visa applications have to be realistic and they felt that,
“We can’t check through all documents for hours as we get millions applying to come
here.”439 They explained that all tactics have to be based on risk and intelligence so resource
can be focused. While some forged documents were noticed by UK authorities, Andy
Desmond said that in some cases the trafficker wanted the victim’s forged passport to be
intercepted by border agency staff so that the victim could claim asylum and use the free
resources provided by the UK until the victim was required.
The visa system
Stakeholders told us that victims of trafficking could be brought through the system with no
comprehension of how the process worked, demonstrating how easily the official
immigration system can be navigated without the victim’s active involvement. It also
however demonstrates how difficult it is for Border Force staff to spot signs that a person is
being trafficked. In some countries they require a personal interview when children are
brought into the country – for example the USA and France require you to appear at the
Embassy. Afruca believed that, “Here we just need false birth papers; you just need [to fill
out] paperwork for fake children to be brought over.” 440 Indeed I was told that only a
handful of all those entering the country from Nigeria are interviewed at the visa stage. Yet
an interview would, in many circumstances, indicate to officials that the person may not be
who they say are. A child would look different to the rest of the children in the family or
would not speak the same language. I was told that we used to have an interview process
but that this is no longer conducted in all cases as it was resource intensive as numbers
entering the UK increased.
A number of Government sources said the problem was not wholly related to a weak visa
regime as the system is “robust.”441 Paul Hewitt, the Head of Safeguarding Children and
Quality Assurance in Hillingdon Council said traffickers are always one step ahead of the
authorities in terms of finding ways to bring victims into the country. I was told that the
victim or trafficker may come over with a British passport and seem entirely credible – for
example, two traffickers in the example above were employed by Newham council.
However, the Home Office conceded that the effectiveness of embassy checks on visas was
dependent on security arrangements in each country. They noted however that only a small
number get into the UK via the visa system anyway as most victims enters illegally.
A Government source said, “The data we have from the NRM is that approximately 15 to
20 per cent are on fake visas. The majority of cases involve other types of false
documents.”442 Indeed of the 98 potential child-trafficking cases referred into the National
439 Evidence from a Meeting with A Government source, 2013
440 In evidence from an interview with Debbie Ariyo and Lola Gani-Yusuf, Afruca , 2012
441 In evidence from Paul Hewitt, the head of safeguarding children and quality assurance in Hillingdon Council,
City Hall, 2013
442 Evidence from a Meeting with a Government source, 2013
Shadow City | 79
Referral Mechanism by the UK Border Agency and Border Force in 2012, 29 can be
matched to a UK visa. 443
One stakeholder working with BME communities believed we needed to re-visit the
protocols behind how a visa is issued, taking notes of which areas victims regularly originate
from, such as Edo, and then strengthening the area by interviewing and providing
information to travellers who were deemed at risk. Information could also be in hidden
places to reach the victim such as in public toilets at the airport. Manchester airport is
already doing this, as are some London ports, and certainly all London airports, as key ports,
should be doing the same. Nevertheless, a challenge would still remain as often the
perpetrator purchases the visa for the victim. There is also the even greater challenge that
the victim may not be aware of the exploitation they face and so may not actually identify
themselves as such.
Such challenges were highlighted by one stakeholder who mentioned one case where an
Indian girl had a birth certificate that said she was 18 years old and 3 days and thus was an
adult. She was on a student visa but had 30 condoms in her bag which she couldn’t explain.
She refused to sign the NRM trafficking form. Her family were contacted and were “happy
and fine. She had a stable background. But it didn’t seem right somehow. Her sponsors kept
hanging up”.444 She refused to consent to an onward referral. All that the stakeholder,
working on her case, could do was provide her with numbers to call if she needed help and
explain that accommodation was there if she needed to run away. The Indian girl didn't
enrol in the college and no one knows what happened to her.
Exit checks
The majority of people I spoke with, who worked with West African victims, claimed that
England was “often a transit country.”445 One stakeholder told us, “Getting out of the UK is
easier than [leaving] Germany as we don’t check passports on the way out [whereas
Germany has] proper passport checks”.446 The IPPR report stated, “A number of
respondents articulated the feeling that the UK immigration system had failed them by
letting them in. It is known that the UK is used as a country of transit for victims of
trafficking being moved from Nigeria to other parts of Europe… The lack of fully
operational exit checks were felt to facilitate this. As one stakeholder stated: ‘It’s impossible
to track people.’”447
Andy Elvin from CFAB said all “Immigration figures are fiction. They have no idea. Once
people are here they get lost… If we only count people on the way in we are only doing half
the job.”448
The sense that England was an easy target to return to is highlighted by numerous cases
including the case of Gbenga Sunday “where the claimant has not been removed once but
443 Question from Baroness Doocey, Citation: HL Deb, 22 April 2013, c383W
444 Evidence from an anonymous source, 2013
445 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013; corroborated by
evidence from Afruca and Andy Desmond, 2012
446 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013
447 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, 2012, Cherti and Pennington
448 In evidence from Andy Elvin, CFAB, City Hall, 2013
Shadow City | 80
twice. This is the third time.”449 After a failed application for leave to remain in 2005, Mr.
Sunday was sent back to Nigeria. Within months, he re-entered illegally and applied for
asylum. He was apprehended and returned to Nigeria again, costing taxpayers more than
£100,000 for both removals.450 Mr Sunday then re-entered the UK a third time in
November 2006 and was arrested when he tried to open a bank account. He was granted
bail, became a fugitive and was only re-arrested in a raid in 2012.
Exit checks began to be dismantled at ports and airports in the 1990s. However, this
Government had planned to reinstate them in some form. But, in July 2013, the Deputy
Prime Minister admitted that they would not meet a pledge to put exit checks in by
2015.451 This has been partly caused by a delay in setting up a £750 million e-borders
programme that collates and stores information on any person entering and leaving Britain
at any port.
A number of stakeholders said they had been impressed by the UK Border Force team and
certainly all those who I spoke to were very knowledgeable and sensitive to the issues
around trafficking. However, a number of stakeholders also had concerns about some staff
in the UK Border Force. This partly revolved around their training.
Many experts cited the fact that there was a high turnover of UK Border Force staff, which
was a concern as “this type of role needs time and expertise”452. A Government source
rejected this view and said that the Border Force were unlikely to lose the expertise, even
with a staff churn, because all border and immigration staff are required to take mandatory
training. However, shortly after this meeting, a UK Border Force source informed me that
“the problem with turnover is you do lose expertise. We are not confident on new staff
knowing trafficking issues well [as you] will not see that expertise.”
The problem is not that training does not take place, but rather the concern was with the
type of training that takes place. One leading organisation looking after victims of trafficking
said that they knew of some staff in the UK Border Force who had never heard of the
NRM. They said they “recently met one person who was a senior officer at Gatwick airport
who had never heard of the NRM.” One stakeholder told us that she had “seen the training
of UKBA staff on this area. It is very basic.”453 There has however been recent training for
UK Border Force staff, which is more comprehensive than the e-learning package. 454
Part of the problem is that UK Border Force training is statutorily done via e-training. One
UK Border Force source admitted that this means it “is basically speed-reading training [but
it really] has to be face to face training [to be effective].” The UK Border Force staff at
449 Breath-taking', judge's view after illegal immigrant demands judicial review, 17 October 2012, Evening
451 Home Office go-slow means exit checks at borders will NOT be re-introduced by 2015 amid legal challenge
to 'go home' ad vans By Matt Chorley, Mailonline:, 31 July 2013 |
452 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013
453 Evidence from a stakeholder working in an Anti-Trafficking NGO, in City Hall, 2013
Shadow City | 81
Heathrow informs staff that they have personal liability for under 18s. Meanwhile all staff
going abroad have half a day of face-to-face training. However, there are no national UK
measures around this. Some stakeholders felt that trafficking training for border staff needed
to be along the same lines as the Children and Young People’s training, so that face-to-face
training was regularised and not ad hoc.
But both a Government source and a leading anti-trafficking NGO conceded that it would
always be very difficult to detect human trafficking at the borders. The victim usually is
unaware that they are about to be trafficked and so the real challenge is that victims rarely
self-identify - so rescuing people at the borders was severely limited.
One stakeholder, working with African victims of trafficking, said the problem was seen as
too difficult to tackle and so was ignored. Another source who worked with victims and
was based at Heathrow said, “There is a problematic perception that we are not being able
to deal with this because these cases are so long winded.” However, they said these cases
can be dealt with. We simply needed “to change the expectation that solving these cases
needs to be quick. People [at the top] expect quick results.”455
The Hillingdon Council Head of Safeguarding Children and Quality Assurance, Paul Hewitt,
told us there was simply not enough resource given to trafficking at the borders or ports of
entry across the country. I was told that there is an “Expectation ... that asylum is a key
issue at the borders; but we see many other children who need to be safeguarded, some of
whom are trafficked. More than half the unaccompanied kids we see are not seeking asylum
but are potential trafficking victims”456 and the new main place of origin of these children
was West Africa.
Repatriating victims
Cherifa Atoussi, a Trafficking Consultant at Anti Trafficking Consultant Ltd, said one of the
concerns she had about the way the UK Border Force (formerly the UKBA) operated was
that the “UKBA don’t get the problem of sending [a victim] back to Nigeria.”457 She
highlighted that often the UK Border Force will be unaware of the script the girl is being
forced to use and simply “sense that she must be lying because she gave the same story as
10 other African girls that same day. So she is sent back.”458
Cherifa Atoussi explained that the UK Border Force presume that the victim can simply
move to another part of Nigeria, but that in doing so it is “not like moving to Birmingham.
[it is more] like returning a Briton to Finland”.459 In the North they have different religions,
customs and dialects. If they return to their own home town they risk “being exploited
again... Traffickers working with Nigerian airport staff catch her; then she is sent back to
Europe by road, crossing the Sahara desert and going by boat into Europe.”460
455 A source based at Heathrow, 2013
456 In evidence from Paul Hewitt, the head of safeguarding children and quality assurance in Hillingdon Council,
City Hall, 2013
457 Interview with Andy Desmond and Cherifa Atoussi, Anti-trafficking Consultant Ltd, 2012
458 Ibid
459 Ibid
460 Ibid
Shadow City | 82
Andy Desmond said that every return should be assessed and that this is recommended by
the UN. What was quite clear to many of our stakeholders was the fact that, “It is not in
the UK’s interests to return people to a situation where they are likely to be re-trafficked.
There is no integrated referral system between the UK and Nigeria.”461
Actions at the border
One stakeholder working in Government said there is currently “a lot of work going on in
Nigeria – we have several Home Office staff posted out there. But there is only so much
you can do.”462 While the Government felt that only a limited amount can realistically be
done at the borders, Afruca felt that very little was being done “because the government
doesn’t want to [but] it would be the most cost effective thing to do.”463
Afruca had a number of suggestions around giving out information when giving out visas to
unaccompanied children and those on domestic visas. They also felt we could have a
significant impact by advertising on planes. They pointed out that one British plane company
play a video about their charitable work and suggested that they could also include a section
about trafficking and people’s rights in UK.
One way they felt we could tackle the issue of victims not self-identifying was to have
a video that compelled the victim to ask those questions by showing a short film about a
girl, goaded by her father to travel with a stranger, and show the risks she faces and that she
can be rescued and supported in the UK. The UK Border Force has in fact distributed Anti-
Slavery postcards with information about the rights of migrant workers at airports and
other UK ports. Furthermore, in November 2012 a film produced by FPWP Hibiscus and
Animage Films and supported by the UK Border Force was shown in planes. The UK
Border Force will regularly monitor the scheme and evaluate how successful it is in
educating and deterring vulnerable people from being exploited. If it is successful we hope it
will be used in planes travelling to and from Heathrow and Gatwick.
One way in which UK Border Force staff at Heathrow felt their work could be assisted was
if they were given the capability to forensically analyse mobile phones. I was told that they
had no technical equipment to look at Sim cards. The UK Border Force staff were once
given this power, during a trial, but that nothing had been taken forward after the pilot
finished. Yet it is through phones that they worked out who was forging documents in a
recent case. The UK Border Force therefore has the power to ask passengers anything, yet
do not have this one capability. There are “15 Met units who routinely forensically check
mobiles.”464 I was told that the UK Border Force needs that capability as well.
461 IPPR report, Beyond Borders, 2012, Cherti and Penningnton.
Examples of individuals being sent back include the following case: Application no. 13950/12 O.G.O. against