Politics and prostitution
Mira is an Albanian who has not seen her family in Albania for six years but whose earnings in the UK are their chief source of support.
“All this talk of Balkan gangs running the Soho girls is rubbish. We are freelances, working for ourselves. Apart from what I need to live on, I send all my money back home. I take nothing from the state over here. I pay my way by selling my body and I just want to be left alone.”
Her friend, Lisa, adds: “The last time the police raided us, they said ‘you didn’t get a British passport to go on the game’. But I say that it’s my body and I’ll do what I want with it.”
This touching plea was augmented by an interesting quote from someone called Nicci Adams of Legal Action for Women. She claimed that “the authorities can be anti-prostitution and anti asylum-seeker at the same time. What could be more perfect?”
Perhaps cynicism is the natural psychological condition of working girls like Mira and her friend Lisa. But, apparently, half of London’s stock are from the Balkans and the former Soviet Union. Albanian criminals control not the street trade practised by these women but the massage parlour game. So Mira and Lisa are probably being truthful. (That’s the thing about criminals - they start telling the truth when they are desperate. It’s only the rest of the time they lie.)
Politically, however, the interesting part of the story is the suggestion that the police and local and national politicians are more concerned to sweep the visible nuisance off the street than to deal with “the Albanian angle”. And that, together with the increased risk of violence it entails, is what these women were protesting almost three years ago now.
Note that the Guardian report mentions a London Conference in November 2002. Here is the Foreign & Commonwealth Office press release which refers to that. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is quoted as saying:-
Then Home Secretary David Blunkett felt his way to the dais so he could add:-
With their, of course, happily married European partners, these two fearless caped crusaders of the modern urban jungle fashioned four sexy governmental projects - no, not just projects but, seminally, UK-led projects - to tackle organised crime in South Eastern Europe. These were the EU Policing Mission, a network of UK Drugs and Immigration Liaison Officers, something called Reflex Romania and something else called Project Immpact (sic).
Now, does all this by any chance have about it the definitive aroma of governmental uselessness? Can one safely say that, when the last hour of police overtime has been claimed and the last empty filing cabinet shipped back from Bratislava to Brize Norton as expensively as possible by military transport - nothing whatsoever will have been achieved?
It takes an investigation by the Telegraph to answer that question:-
The Telegraph took it upon itself to inform the Office of the Prime Minister of its findings. Our leader was shocked, I tell you. But in control. Always in control. And determined to do so much more to make the world a safer, more caring place.
Well, that Albanian intimidation is not colossal enough, apparently, for the EU Policing Mission to find out where it’s at. Still, it’s been a while since we had an international conference. So that’s a possibility. And a quick clean up of the visible street trade, say in Soho, would at least make things look as if we’re doing something - wouldn’t it, boys?
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