London prostitutes cleared from streets

London prostitutes cleared from streets

LONDON - Agence France-Presse
London prostitutes cleared from streets

People walk behind the banners of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Sex workers are being lured off the London streets in the run-up to the Olympic Games. AP photo

The London Olympics are not big business for everyone -- sex workers say they are being cleared from the streets around the stadium to make the area more presentable for the Games.

While Britain’s limp economy hopes for an Olympic boost, police in Newham, the deprived east London borough that is home to the stadium, have closed some 80 brothels in the 18 months to March, according to a study by a local councilor.

“For the last two years we’ve seen a real increase in police activity in relation to sex work in the Olympic host boroughs,” said Georgina Perry, who runs Open Doors, a government project supporting east London prostitutes.

“Some of the women who sell sex have experienced so many brothel closures that they are now working on the street, a much less safe place. They are experiencing a lot of police requests for them to move on from the area. They’re not wanted there during the Olympic Games.” 

The expected influx of two million visitors for the Olympics has led Prime Minister David Cameron to predict a 13 billion-pound boost for the economy over the next four years. But the sex trade looks likely to miss out on any benefits, campaigners say.

London’s Metropolitan Police have denied that the brothel raids were connected to the Olympics, saying they were “in response to community concerns” but the charities working with local prostitutes have reported a spike in the number arrested, on charges ranging from soliciting to drug possession.

Moving away 

“They are already vulnerable,” said Perry. “What’s happening is that they’re moving away from services that can support them.” 

Scotland Yard has said there is no evidence that prostitution has risen in east London ahead of the Games.

In fact, one sex worker told AFP that her colleagues are bracing for a sharp fall in business.

“It’s a family event - it’s not like all the visitors are going to be single men,” said Catherine Stephen. “I don’t think we’re going to see the clientele we normally see, because it’s going to be so difficult to get around. Most of the people I know are planning to take a couple of weeks off.”