Articles on Modern Day Enslavement - Zola M Dube

2012 Olympics in England off to fresh start dismantling modern day slavery

In 13 Days of Awareness: 13 Nations Profiled on June 29, 2010 at 11:40 AM

“It needs to be put out there to people that [men who purchase sex] have to understand this is exploitation of people in the worst way. Lives are ruined just because people want to use what is seen as just a brothel selling prostitution. They do not see the horror story behind it.”

– Detective Inspector Kevin Hyland, London 2010

From as far back as 2006 anti-human trafficking advocates in England have raised concerns over the 2012 Olympic Games. Criminal syndicates stand to gain financially from the illicit multi-billion pound industry. On one hand are free and single male construction workers, including exploited illegal workers. On the other, sex slaves smuggled into England, estimated at 4000 per year, from developing nations of Asia, Eastern Europe, and Africa. UNICEF has a different estimate of 5000 children alone.

In 2007 Grahame Maxwell, of the Association of Chief Police Officers, reported cases of underage virgins sold in London for £8000 pounds to women sold for £500 forced to service restaurant workers. In July 2009 London police arrested a couple for human trafficking. After a one-year investigation, it is reported that more than £1m in six months of accumulated profits were generated running four brothels around the city. What made the case particularly unusual is the victims that willingly came forward; a key factor in undermining the financial system that makes human trafficking worth the risk to criminals. Up until very recently, this was not the case.

Numerous published reports on treatment of “rescued” human trafficking victims have demonstrated their victimization by authorities. Victims are reminded by their captors that they are in the country illegally and will be deported if found. Physical abuse and intimidating is part of the life of modern day slaves. Indeed, there have been victims who were immediately deported after being “busted for prostitution”.

As recently as 2008 the British government appeared complacent towards human trafficking. Plans were put in place to close the Home Office specialist division on Human Trafficking, set for April 2009, saving the national budget £2.3m. On December 5, 2008 the London Daily News reported that the decision had been reversed.

Today, the Home Office-Human Trafficking Unit, has issued new laws protecting the rights of victims and prosecuting criminal human smugglers as well as criminalizing men who pay for sex.  Men who sleep with victims face criminal charges tantamount to rape. Women in government, namely Harriet Harman, have left nothing to chance and keep the pressure on England to be proactive as enslavement has not yet been eradicated. There are still elements of complacency in government and criminal syndicates looking to reap financial benefits from the exploitation of humans through the Olympic games.

As noted by Jane Esuantsiwa Goldsmith, preparing for the 2012 Olympics should be an evidence-based approach, including input from affected communities, trafficked persons, migrant workers and labor unions. More resources have been provided to investigate criminal smugglers of people as well as customers. This has lead to the discovery of criminal rings. England’s anti-human trafficking operations and campaign now guide victims towards resources available to assist them in overcoming their trauma and delay deportation until they receive recovery treatment.

In what may finally be a focused response to recommendations from NGOs who work directing with human trafficking victims and understand their needs, Scotland Yard has in recent years revamped its London human trafficking operations. There is still more work to be done. By all appearances, authorities have just begun to become sensitized to the impact of human trafficking from the perspective of its victims.

– Zola Dube

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