Author: Rachel Davies, Prostitution and Trafficking Policy Officer.
‘The business is not run by stupid people. Ardita Kraja’s words have haunted me ever since I first read the article describing her account of trafficking and subsequent sexual exploitation in the UK. Between April and December 2009 over 500 cases were referred to the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) with 26% of those cases being children. What is particularly concerning is that this figure only indicates how many people have been found and referred within one six month period. It is unknown how many more people are still being exploited – unseen and unheard.
Ardita’s words are a haunting reminder that the criminal gangs who use people like her are strategically clever and very good at what they do.
All of us have been vulnerable in one sense or another at some point in our lives. Traffickers are highly skilled in identifying what a person’s vulnerability is and then using it to exploit them. Often the people they abuse are not in a position to speak up and seek help. The tactics used to silence exploited people are both manipulative and clever.
Although the common perception is that modern slavery is always accompanied by physical chains and locked rooms, it often takes a more subtle form. Threats made to family back home are not uncommon. Sometimes the traffickers will even pay the victim a ‘token’ wage – often very low – to cover up the appearance of blatant exploitation. In many cases exploited migrant workers will not even realise that they have been the victims of a crime.
I once came across a case where a Thai woman was brought to London by a criminal gang. On arrival she was told that she owed £20,000 for the travel arrangements made on her behalf and had to work in prostitution until she paid it off. She did not have a good grasp of the English language and was told that the gang had contacts in the British police force. Although horrified by what she was told to do, she accepted the situation as she did not realise that there was an alternative. Every week her pimp added costs for food, rent and clothing. When the police found her six months later, her ‘debt’ had doubled.
I have also come across cases where girls have been sold to brothels by their ‘boyfriends’, Vietnamese children have been forced to work in cannabis factories by a ‘family friend’ and a person’s home town police officer has turned out to be a trafficking recruiter. The
psychological manipulation used is often so severe that victims will be hesitant to reveal the full extent of their situation even after they have escaped.
To discuss the article leave a comment below…