The UK's anti-trafficking policy is undermining the rights of sex workers, leaving them vulnerable to arrest and conviction or, in the case of migrant workers, detainment and deportation. The UK is also failing to meet its human rights obligations to
trafficked persons, particularly men, transgender people and people trafficked into non-sexual labour, says a report by sex worker rights network, x:talk.
Human Rights, Sex Work and the Challenge of Trafficking [pdf] describes how the UK's anti-trafficking policy has
created new crimes around the selling of consensual sexual services between adults and how its implementation has resulted in an increase in arrests and convictions for sex workers and others in the sex industry. The combination of anti-trafficking
raids, brothel closures and increased surveillance of the indoor sex industry has caused serious disruptions to sex workers' working environments and made the industry less safe, especially for migrant sex workers. The report describes the UK
anti-trafficking measures as causing an unprecedented incursion into the lives and work of people employed in the indoor sex industry .
It finds that many undocumented migrants are unable or unwilling to exercise their rights as workers, or
access basic services, such as healthcare. Provisions in the Policing and Crime Act 2009, introduced to combat trafficking, have resulted in a situation where migrant sex workers do not seek redress when they are wronged or abused and are more vulnerable
to exploitation and rights abuses.
Ava Caradonna, sex worker and spokeswoman for x:talk, said:
We have always suspected that attempts to address human trafficking have been co-opted by people with another
agenda—the eradication of the sex industry. What the x:talk report has highlighted is that, rather than assisting and supporting trafficked people, anti-trafficking policies have been most effective at putting the safety, health and even the lives
of sex workers at risk. They have also helped to make sex workers a soft target for the Border Agency.
x:talk has recently filed an Freedom of Information request for details of the Poppy Project, to coincide with the report's
release. The request aims to find out how the Poppy Project have spent more than £9m granted by the government and what support it is provided to trafficked women – information that is not currently publicly available.