Monday, November 07, 2005

People trade: Immigrants tell of forced prostitution and slavery as trafficking gang is jailed: Captive women made to have unprotected sex Families th

November 3, 2005 12:00am
Source: The Guardian

The plight of thousands of eastern European women kept as sex slaves in British brothels was highlighted yesterday as court proceedings against members of a major trafficking ring ended.

Detectives believe the gang brought at least 600 illegal immigrants to the UK, many of whom were locked up, forced into prostitution, and told their families back home would be killed if they refused to obey orders.

The women - the youngest known victim was 17 - were fed just one meal a day, charged for use of knives and forks, and forbidden to go near the windows of the Park Lane, Mayfair and Soho brothels where they worked 20-hour shifts. They were forced to have sex with up to 40 men a day for as little as pounds 10 a time to pay off pounds 20,000 debts each - the price for which they were "bought". They were charged rent, and subjected to fines if they refused anal or unprotected sex or a client was not attracted to them. Some escaped after passing notes to each other via a client.

One 23-year-old described how she had to pay pounds 300 per day to live locked in a shared basement and her captors threatened to kill her family. Like many trafficking victims, the computer graduate was lured to Britain by promises of a respectable, well-paid job in a hotel or restaurant but ended up in a brothel

"I believed they would kill my family," she told the court. "I thought I hadn't a way out of this situation. I didn't think I had a life in front of me. I wanted to escape but everything was locked. We were locked up all the time. I was told I need to go with clients and I needed to do sex with them. I felt very bad. The first time I wasn't able to talk afterwards."

Up to 80% of London's 8,000 prostitutes are foreign nationals, many from the Baltic states, Africa and Asia. Police and organisations trying to stop sex trafficking believe thousands of women are forced or tricked into prostitution. They have seized assets worth pounds 4.4m in 300 operations against human traffickers, in which 1,456 people were arrested.

The police face huge obstacles, not least persuading the terrified victims, many of whom have been subjected to rape and extreme violence by their captors, to testify.

But others are critical of what they see as a heavy-handed approach, such as the recent raid on a Birmingham brothel, and feel the authorities not doing enough to help victims. They argue that deporting the women perpetuates the problem.

Anti-Slavery International launched a campaign for the humane treatment of trafficking victims this week, and the government faces an inquiry from the joint select committee on human rights and pressure to sign the Council of Europe Convention on trafficking.

"It cannot be right that these women who have been so badly treated should not have access to specialist legal advice and a reflection period of 30 days in a safe and supportive environment in which to consider helping the prosecution of the criminals," said committee member Evan Harris, a Liberal Democrat MP. "Instead, most are being sent straight back to their home country and some are being re-trafficked all over again."

Yesterday Tamara Dulghieru, a 31-year-old Moldovan, was jailed for five years for helping smuggle hundreds of eastern European women into the UK as part of the multi-million-pound trafficking empire of her husband, Gavril Dulghieru. The couple, both failed asylum seekers, used a vast array of forged passports and cloned credit cards to bring at least 600 illegal immigrants to Britain on cheap flights and Eurostar.

Detective Sergeant Alan Fitzgerald of the National Crime Squad said: "This was a highly sophisticated gang, one of the most sophisticated I've come across in 29 years in the police force. We believe there was a huge amount of money being made both in trafficking, facilitation and other criminal activities. Lots of cash flooded back into eastern Europe. We don't know exactly how much money was involved but it had the potential to be a multi-million-pound organisation."

Tamara Dulghieru, of Tooting Bec, south London, burst into tears as she was convicted and sentenced at Isleworth crown court for conspiracy to facilitate illegal immigration, misuse of stolen credit cards, forgery and money laundering. She was cleared of conspiracy to traffick for prostitution and sexual exploitation. She had denied all charges.

Her husband, Gavril Dulghieru, who pleaded guilty to all the above charges, was sent to jail for nine years on October 21. He has also been sentenced in his absence to 10 years in prison in France for similar offences. Oleh Matyushin, 35, a Belarus national from south-west London, was also jailed for two years and nine months on October 21 after he admitted helping facilitate illegal immigration, forgery and money laundering.

Reporting restrictions forbade the two men's details being published until Tamara Dulghieru's trial ended.

Judge John Rylance said: "Illegal trafficking of people into this or other countries is evil and inhumane. It is particularly evil when the purpose is prostitution, because of the inevitability that many of these people will become subject of the malevolent control of the malicious and greedy." He said traffickers frequently preyed on the desperate and vulnerable, and their crimes caused resentment against legal immigrants and genuine asylum seekers.

He recommended both the Dulghierus be deported after their sentences.

80 %- Proportion of the estimated 8,000 prostitutes in London thought to be foreign nationals, many of them trafficked

pounds 4.5m- The value of assets seized by police during more than 300 operations against human traffickers, in which 1,456 people were arrested



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