Vulnerable women are being sexually exploited on an industrial scale in “pop-up brothels” run by trafficking gangs, according to a report.
The brothels, often set up in residential properties using short-term leases, allow gangs to keep a step ahead of police and retain control over the women, the all-party parliamentary group on prostitution and the global sex trade said.
The APPG [All-Party Parliamentary Group] called for the UK to follow the lead of other European countries by criminalising people who pay for sex, but decriminalising the selling of sex, in an attempt to cut demand.
It also said the government should stop websites advertising and profiting from [prostitution].
Gavin Shuker, the Labour MP for Luton South and 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 sexual exploitation of women by organised crime was “widespread”.
It said there were at least 212 active police operations in the UK into modern slavery cases featuring sexual exploitation, “overwhelmingly” involving foreign nationals working in brothels.
About 85% of the victims were foreign, with Romanians making up the biggest proportion.
Romanians were also the largest nationality group among suspects, with Britons the second-biggest.
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.”