SEX SLAVE TRADE TARGETS WALES; Revealed: How Desperate Women Are Smuggled in and Forced into Prostitution

Article excerpt

Byline: Greg Lewis

WOMEN are being smuggled into Wales to work as prostitutes as part of a sickening trade in human misery.

Vice squad officers believe five brothels in the capital alone may now be employing women who were brought to Britain to work in the sex trade.

Many women working in the industry have been tricked by human traffickers and then forced to work as prostitutes to pay off debts.

One women's rights' group, which carries out special investigations into trafficking, said victims were almost certainly being forced to sell their bodies in Wales.

Only recently the National Crime Squad said it had cracked an alleged people smuggling operation bringing mainly Eastern European women to Swansea.

Experts say that Wales can no longer ignore one of the fastest growing criminal activities in the world.

Inspector Richard Powell, of the Metropolitan Police's vice unit, suspects at least five Cardiff brothels employ women who are illegally smuggled into Britain.

'Maybe some people will be unable to think of it happening in Wales, but some girls do it voluntarily, while others get used as prisoners,' said the Wales-born officer.

'Since the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe and since opening up the borders in Balkan countries, there has been an increase in trafficking women, with them being used in brothels to make money for the smugglers.

'It's a secret offence at the moment. Girls don't just walk into a police station and say that they are suffering at the hands of these smugglers.'

Insp Powell said women were forced to work in the brothels until they have paid the cost of their transportation to Britain.

'Then they get deceived and forced into working 16 hours a day, seven days a week,' he explained. 'Their health is also in danger, as they are forced to have sex without condoms.

'Sometimes, girls are threatened with what could happen to them or to their families and there's always the risk of being thrown out onto the street.

'At the moment, it's possible to have more of a fine for jumping a red light than there is for running a brothel, and we want to change that. These smugglers are making big money through mistreating other people, and they must be stopped.'

He said his vice unit was keeping an eye on prostitutes who advertise their services in case they are part of a trafficking chain.

'To do business, prostitutes have to advertise, so we know where most of them are,' he said.

There are a number of places to buy sex in Cardiff, Swansea and Wales' major towns. Many are massage parlours on main streets or near city centres. There are also brothels organised from people's homes.

Wales on Sunday this week discovered several foreign prostitutes working in the capital. One in her 20s, who is understood to be Russian, works from a building on a busy main road in the city. Another place offered our reporter a selection of 'foreign girls'.

Fiona Luckhoo, of women's rights' group Change, said: 'It seems to us almost certain that women who have been smuggled into the UK are working as prostitutes in Wales. Wherever there is a sex industry there is likely to be trafficking.

'The closure of so many vice squads around England and Wales makes it difficult to assess the scale of the problem but it is there - in cities and even larger towns. It is often hidden with prostitutes using private flats and houses.'

Oxfam Cymru said trafficking in women was now an issue which had to be considered by agencies in Wales.

'An inescapable reality is that Welsh towns and cities will increasingly become destinations for illegally trafficked people, especially as the Metropolitan Police crackdowns on the practice,' said spokesman Richard Jones.

'It's difficult for us in Wales to comprehend the levels of abject poverty that lead to this practice. …