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     Traffickers face action to curb sex trade

    UK Telegraph
    By David Harrison
    (Filed: 01/01/2006) The Government will this week announce a crackdown on the sex trafficking gangs which bring thousands of young women to Britain and force them into prostitution.
    The "action plan" follows the Sunday Telegraph's undercover investigations into the cruel and fast-growing trade condemned as "21st century slavery". In the past few years thousands of women, mostly vulnerable 18- to 25-year-olds from eastern Europe, have been abducted or deceived - with promises of "normal" jobs - into coming to Britain where they are kept as sex slaves, raped, beaten and forced to see up to 30 clients a day. Paul Goggins, the Home Office minister who will unveil the action plan, said: "This is a relatively new but horrific crime that has been growing at an alarming rate. It has added a shocking new dimension to prostitution." Under the plan, ministers and police will work with authorities and charities in countries such as Romania, Moldova, Lithuania and Ukraine, to help to catch the criminals and educate young women about the threat posed by traffickers. In Britain police, customs, airline and rail staff, and trans-continental coach drivers will be trained to spot traffickers and victims. More police raids will be carried out at brothels - including those disguised as saunas and massage parlours - and officers will be accompanied by "support teams" who will offer rescued women protection and counselling. Britain has one refuge for trafficking victims but Mr Goggins said more might be opened if they were needed. Women at the shelter can remain in Britain for 28 days but victims could be allowed to stay for longer if they were giving evidence. In a recent series of investigations this newspaper found girls for sale in Romania for as little as £1,400, interviewed women held as sex slaves in London and revealed that victims were being kept in dingy cellars in Macedonia. Men who use prostitutes will also be targeted under the new plan, and those who use trafficked women will be hit hardest. "If men are caught with women who show signs that they are working against their will, they will face serious charges," said Mr Goggins. The new initiative is much more significant than last week's decision to shelve plans for legal red-light districts and announce that kerb-crawlers would lose their licences and be "named and shamed". Police admit that they are struggling to cope with the scale of the problem but say they are encouraged by recent successes, such as the jailing last month of five Albanian traffickers. The action plan, which will be put out for consultation until the end of March, will also cover child and slave labour trafficking which police believe are run by many of the gangs behind the sex slave trade. The crackdown forms part of a policy blitz ordered by Tony Blair to wrest back the limelight from the Tories. Announcements on security and health are expected. However, Mr Blair, who returns this week from a family holiday on the Red Sea, still faces revolts over education reform, nuclear power and possible changes to the welfare system.
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