Report warns vulnerable women being exploited on industrial scale in ‘pop-up brothels’

Vulnerable women are being sexually exploited on an industrial scale in so-called “pop-up brothels” run by trafficking gangs, a new report has warned.

The brothels, often set up in residential properties using short-term leases, allow gangs to keep ahead of police and retain control over the women, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade said.

It called for Britain to follow the lead of other European nations by criminalising people who pay for sex, but decriminalising the selling of sex, in an attempt to cut demand.

It also wants the Government to stop websites advertising and profiting from prostitution.

Luton Labour MP Gavin Shuker, the APPG chairman, said: “A revolving door of vulnerable women, predominantly from Eastern Europe, are being supplied by trafficking gangs into residential properties and hotels in order to be sexually exploited by UK men.

“Commercial websites that advertise prostitution enable this trade, making sizeable profits and directly benefiting from the exploitation of others.

“But it is the minority of men in the UK who pay to sexually access women’s bodies who are funding sex trafficking and driving this form of modern-day slavery.

“Right now the traffickers are winning. The UK is currently a low-risk destination for organised crime groups seeking to sexually exploit vulnerable women.”

The report, Behind Closed Doors: Organised Sexual Exploitation in England and Wales, found that sexual exploitation of women by organised crime was “widespread”.

It said there were at least 212 active, ongoing police operations in the UK into modern slavery cases involving sexual exploitation, “overwhelmingly” involving foreign nationals working in brothels.

Some 85% victims were foreign, with Romanians (39%) the most common nationality.

Romanians also made up the largest nationality among suspects (40%), with Britons the second largest.

The report also suggested a national register of landlords and new guidance for the short-term letting sector to help prevent sexual exploitation

It noted: “A handful of explicit prostitution procurement websites enable this trade, making sizeable profits, directly benefiting from the exploitation of others.

“But rental landlords, online booking companies, and hotel sites all indirectly profit from the practice as exploiters take advantage of poor safeguards to hire new sites for pop-ups.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Dominic Lipinski / PA Wire.