Clare Short: A tortuous tale of human trafficking
Jul 8 2008 By Clare Short
I did my usual advice bureaux last weekend. Lots of very different people come to see me. All human life comes through my door.
Some have housing problems, some problems with the muddle of the tax credit system. Many have waited years for a reply from the Home Office. One elderly constituent whom I have known for many years has neighbours who keep pushing their fence a little further across her boundary line.
Two had waited so long for their clearance from the Criminal Records Bureau that they had lost out on months of work and felt like criminals, but eventually had been given a completely clean record.
However, the case that broke my heart and which I want to share with those who are concerned with the state of the modern world was a woman in her 30s who originally came from Nigeria.
I asked what her problem was, and she said it was very complicated. She then started to weep quietly, big silent tears sliding down her cheeks. More than ten years ago, she was offered a job in Holland.
She signed a paper to say that she would repay the fare.
She left two children with relatives and said she would send money. When she got to Holland, she was imprisoned in a flat and forced to work as a prostitute. She was paid nothing and had a terrible time, all along desperately worried about her children. After some time, she escaped and lived for a while homeless on the streets. She found she was pregnant.
She then met a kind Dutch man who took her home and cared for her. Her daughter was born and he suggested they marry.
They went to the Dutch authorities to try to regularise her position. They said she must return to Nigeria to apply to return. She agreed to do this because she wanted to be legal, but they would not let her take her daughter because she was born in Holland. Her daughter was taken into care.
Back home, the gang that trafficked her said she must repay $45,000. She explained that she had no money. They then burnt down her father’s house and later beat her so badly that she spent three months in hospital. She then escaped by coming to the UK and applying for asylum. Her Dutch partner comes to visit her regularly.
They have married in the UK, but she cannot go with him to Holland.
She cannot work in the UK. She cannot join her husband in Holland. She is terrified for her children in Nigeria and yearning to see her daughter who is now eight and in care in Holland.
I will ask one of the agencies in the UK that assists trafficked women to care for her.
I will also write to the Ambassador of The Netherlands and ask him to ensure that she is allowed to join her husband. I will also ask that the Dutch police interview her and arrest the gang of Nigerians who are organising this evil trade.
Similar things are happening in the UK. A police report last week suggested that there are 18,000 trafficked women in the UK. It is bad enough when some men do such evil to fellow human beings. It is even worse that the Dutch – and UK – authorities are so unwilling to help those who have been misused in this way.
To be fair to the UK, there has been some improvement in the last year or so.
Under pressure from MPs of all parties, the Government has agreed to sign up to a Council of Europe treaty that involves helping women who have been trafficked by letting them stay for a month to try to sort out their lives. For years the Government argued that if they did this women would volunteer to be trafficked in order to get to the UK. Now they have relented and the police are making efforts to arrest the traffickers, but as yet I do not know if I will be able to help the heartbroken, weeping young woman who came to see me on Saturday.