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Trafficked Women

Volume 481: debated on Tuesday 21 October 2008

5. What discussions she has had with ministerial colleagues on the number of places made available in refuges to women who have been trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. (228319)

The interdepartmental ministerial group on human trafficking, of which I am a member, regularly discusses that subject. This year, the Government invested a further £1.3 million in the POPPY project to support these vulnerable victims, taking the total to £5.8 million since 2003. That provides 35 supported accommodation places. The Government will expand the support services for the victims next year as part of our commitment to implement the Council of Europe convention against trafficking in human beings.

I am grateful to the veteran Minister for her response. Does she agree that 35 places are far too few, given the thousands and thousands of victims of human trafficking? There is a great imbalance.

I agree that we need to do more. In fact, we are now developing a national referral mechanism that will enable the POPPY project or similar accommodation projects to take referrals from other areas to ensure that we develop more capacity for helping the vulnerable victims of a horrific offence.

Is not the imperative now to expand the model created by the POPPY project across the country? We do not want young women who have been sexually exploited coming to just one area—basically, south London—and putting pressure on housing, although we hope that they are granted leave to remain. As we consider rolling out the model, is it not important that joined-up agencies work together for those women, who have often been the victims of violent and sexual crime?

My hon. Friend will be aware that the POPPY project takes referrals from areas other than just London. Via the interdepartmental ministerial group on human trafficking, I am liaising with my ministerial colleagues on funding to try to make sure that we can expand our capacity to deal with the victims of those horrific offences and ensure that the women get proper support once we have managed to get them out of the exploitation into which they have been trafficked.