Telford child trafficking: Why are we letting the issue of race distract us from the real crime?

On Friday evening, four members of the STOP THE TRAFFIK team in London attended a preview screening of a documentary made for Channel 4 entitled “The Hunt for Britain’s Sex Gangs”. In short, it was powerful, enthralling and absolutely vital viewing. It’s out on Channel 4 next Thursday 23rd May at 9 p.m.: don’t miss it.

It is above all a brave piece of film-making. When director Anna Hall was granted access to the police investigation into child trafficking and sex abuse in the Telford area, she had no idea if the footage she was taking would ever be used. It was only after the conviction of seven men last October that the documentary team knew their work wasn’t in vain.

If you’re struggling to recall this case, it might jog your memory if I mention the ‘Asian grooming case’ or the ‘Asian gang’, as the traffickers have been referred to by various streams of media. The issue of race has overshadowed the alarming and serious issue that widespread child trafficking was going on for years in a UK community.

The media can be partly blamed for this. On one side there are papers that have latched onto the race issue to sell copies. A Google search for “Telford Asian gang” returns six times as many hits as “Telford trafficking case”.

The use of the word “Asian” is a dangerous misnomer, by the way, as the convicted men were British-born Pakistanis. Since when did these two mean the same thing?

On the other side, the more liberal media have studiously avoided the subject, preferring not to mention the R-word for fear of igniting controversy. In doing so, however, they offer no response to those who say that this crime was racially motivated. Channel 4 postponed the release of the second documentary in Hall’s series, “Britain’s Sex Gangs”, in case it caused race riots. When it was finally screened, no riots were forthcoming.

Well, here’s my response, and if you don’t mind I’m going to borrow a phrase from maths: correlation does not imply causation. In other words, just because the perpetrators were of one race, and the victims of another, it does not mean that the crime was racially motivated.

The crime was motivated, as all cases of human trafficking are, firstly by money, and secondly by power. By admission of the traffickers, the girls they targeted were chosen because they were believed to be the easiest to groom. It was purely a business decision based on maximising profit – that doesn’t sound much like a race crime to me.

If that line of reasoning isn’t enough, we could always turn to actual statistical evidence. The Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking produced a report on trafficking in October 2012, which included a breakdown of Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) involved in human trafficking in the UK by nationality.

Out of the 92 identified in 2012, 1 was Pakistani. 11 were British. 19 were “Asian”, and 52 were European. With at least 19 different nationalities represented by the identified OCGs, you can’t get much clearer evidence that this is not a racial issue.

So what are the important lessons from this case? One key element of the trial stuck out for me. A piece of legislation adopted from the Palermo Protocol was used by the police to show that, because the girls were children who had been trafficked, they could not legally consent to any sexual activity. This allowed them to pin convictions on the traffickers, and should serve as a landmark case for future prosecutions.

Secondly, education is key. All young girls must be aware that grooming occurs, that under no circumstances should they be expected to perform sexual acts on strangers, and how to stay safe and keep their friends safe from these perils.

Human trafficking is a crime that transcends ethnicity, gender and class. It is a pervasive evil that exists anywhere where there is money to be made. We cannot let issues of race or religion cloud what is really important – communities must look within themselves, and must look out for each other, to eradicate this crime.

2 thoughts on “Telford child trafficking: Why are we letting the issue of race distract us from the real crime?

  1. Gemma Armes

    So true. It’s very disconcerting that the focus has been pushed elsewhere and even more so that it has been regarded as the more pressing issue here and the actual issue of sex trafficking almost ignored.

  2. I read the story above with interest until I cam to the paragraph about education. It’s shocking that the girls are being singled out for education, yet nothing is being said about educating the perpetrators or people who might become perpetrators. What good is the education to girls who are trafficked and beaten or killed into submission

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