A human trafficking charity has urged for a ‘person-centred approach’ after a Chelsea apartment block was embroiled in a prostitution scandal.
It was revealed last Sunday that more than 100 prostitutes are advertised on websites as working from Chelsea Cloisters, branded the ‘ten floors of whores’. The Sloane Avenue mansion block contains 670 flats and is owned by multi-millionaire and Conservative party donor Christopher Moran.
According to the Sunday Times investigation, a number of the women involved are from Romania. A parliamentary report published last summer found this is where most UK-based sex trafficking victims originate.
Tamara Barnett, projects leader at The Human Trafficking Foundation, warned against ‘sensationalist’ reporting and responses that fail to prioritise women’s welfare.
She said: “It’s important not to conflate the sex industry with all human trafficking. There’s always a risk when people come across people who are not English working in the sex industry, or in car washes, or nail bars. They immediately jump to ‘oh, they must be trafficked or exploited’, but some people will be consensually doing this.”
Ms Barnett advocated a ‘person-centred approach’.
She said: “There may well be actual cases of human trafficking, but my concern with jumping in at the deep end is that actually what you really need is more of a safeguarding approach – NGOs or NHS projects going in and asking if these women are ok.
“When people come in and try to rescue groups of sex workers it just never works. They won’t suddenly say ‘thank you for rescuing me’. They disappear into the ether. It pushes them into much more dangerous places. Street work is very very dangerous. It’s a completely different ballgame to working in a brothel.
“Having a person-centred approach is really key and I just hope that is what happens rather than police or politicians jumping in after a knee-jerk article.”
The Free For Good bill is currently passing through parliament and would give a victim of trafficking leave to remain for at least one year. This bill hopes to provide greater support to encourage victims to come forward and accept help.
The suggestion that some women working in the building may be victims of sex trafficking prompted a Liberal Democrat councillor in Borough to call on the Prime Minister to give Mr Moran’s donations to a sex worker charity.
Mr Moran has donated £290,000 to the Conservative party, including £87,000 under Theresa May’s leadership.
Councillor Linda Wade, who has represented Earl’s Court in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea since 2010, said: “Mrs May must make a public statement by giving Mr Moran’s donation to the Conservative Party to charities that support sex workers, both as a woman and on human rights grounds.”
She described it as an “open secret” that Chelsea Cloisters was a well-known base for prostitution.
Councillor Wade said: ‘Whether or not Mr Moran was aware of the problems associated with Chelsea Cloisters, many residents in the area have complained about it for years, and so I would have thought a review of the management of the building is essential was in order.”
Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington, the neighbouring constituency, said: “Prostitution is a growing problem in the borough, which I have reported to successive borough commanders. It can also involve trafficking of women and drug dealing.
“I hope the police will take this scourge more seriously after this particular revelation.”
A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: “We are aware of the Sunday Times report and allegations made within it. This is a matter for the appropriate authorities to consider and, if necessary, investigate.”
There is no suggestion that Mr Moran is directly involved in any of these activities. He has denied his involvement and stressed his limited involvement in the company’s day-to-day running.