Poppy Project to support sex trafficking victims loses funding, may not survive

// 17 April 2011

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handprintstrafficking.jpgThe Poppy Project has lost a £4 million contract to support victims of sex trafficking – to the Salvation Army, and may be forced to close.

A story in the Guardian today sets out the crucial work the organisation does and raises troubling questions about why they lost out on the funding.

Abigail Stepnitz, the national co-ordinator for the Poppy Project Eaves charity, said that the decision was “politically motivated”.

“The government doesn’t like someone who will rock the boat. We were a problem for them in that sense,” she said. Since the charity joined an oversight board two years ago, assessing the government’s compliance on tackling trafficking, it has successfully appealed 17 UK Border Agency decisions on identification of trafficking victims and forced countless reassessments.

This next bit really sums up the government’s priorities:

Stepnitz points to letters from officials, which concede that, while the rape experienced by victims is “unfortunate”, it does not qualify them for government help.

This chimes with what other reports already found on the issue.

The Salvation Army are planning to cut resources to support each person, so they can get more out of the money. Sounds like those brilliant backroom savings the government keeps talking about, but Poppy say:

One element of the decision that had troubled support workers was the assumption that most victims would require only 45 days of treatment. Stepnitz said that at least 90 days was required to rehabilitate victims. The average length of treatment at the charity, which can support 128 women, is between three and eight months.

Within the charity’s south London headquarters are the tools of rehabilitation. Trafficked women learn English, how to write CVs, computer skills and how to eat healthily. Between shifts manning the emergency referral and advice hotline, Leigh Ivens and her colleagues escort women to see doctors, meet Home Office officials and solicitors. They may eventually escort them to court to testify against their trafficker. The charity has secured more than 500 years in convictions against traffickers.

The Guardian goes on to interview some of the women that the Poppy Project has helped and is currently supporting, read the rest here.

Photo of handprints from an Australian anti-trafficking campaign focusing on children and young people, by Adam Valvasori, shared on Flickr under a Creative Commons license

Comments From You

paul kelly // Posted 18 April 2011 at 7:06 am

this is very sad, the poppy project does great work


people are people, does it really matter where they are from?

The police should simply close down all strip joints and brothels in such areas as soho.

Board them up and refuse to open them again

paul kelly // Posted 19 April 2011 at 2:35 pm

id like to ask a wider question:

would any of the readers of this website oppose these women being allowed to stay in the uk?

Also why dont any of the men visiting these unfortunate women/girls not ask more searching questions before abusing them?

Jess McCabe // Posted 19 April 2011 at 2:48 pm

@paul kelly

I went to a talk given by the Poppy Project a few years ago; one of the questions they were asked is how many referrals they get from men who have visited prostitutes/sex workers and found out that the woman had been trafficked. A small hand full of referrals came in this way.

However, the Poppy Project person went on to say that all of the men had had sex with the trafficked woman. So, even though they suspected that the woman had been forced into it, and cared enough to go to the trouble of finding out about and calling a support project for women in that situation, they still went ahead and had sex with them.

That’s an anecdote rather than a study – although the Poppy Project had hard numbers,I don’t have them to hand and anyway they’d be out of date. But, an extremely depressing one.

paul kelly // Posted 19 April 2011 at 3:14 pm

good point jess.

Id also ask: if a lot of these women/girls cant even speak english then surely theres a hint there that they might be trafficked?

They are someones sister, daughter, mother, girlfriend, wife etc. I think they should be allowed to stay and given asylum/treatment. Just because they come from another country doesnt make them a lesser person

sianushka // Posted 19 April 2011 at 3:34 pm

I think i remember reading that Jess.

Now that the new legislation has come in making it illegal to buy sex from (pay to rape) a woman who has been trafficked, is it less likely that men would come forward? Although obviously that legislation is a good thing!

I never forget reading the comments of men on punternet ‘reviewing’ the women they had bought. Disgust, contempt, violence dripped from every word. They simply don’t care if she wants to be there. So am not surprised that even the men who then contact the Poppy Project still have sex with women they believe to be trafficked. Apparently their right to have an orgasm trumps her bodily autonomy and freedom.

It makes me so angry. Sorry if some of the language i have used is a bit ugly, but i am so so angry about this.

paul kelly // Posted 19 April 2011 at 4:17 pm


why is your language ugly? It just shows u are passionate about this. Britain needs strong women who are intelligent and free thinking to be in charge of equality and stopping trafficking.

Why dont the government close sites such as punterlink? They dont serve any purpose except to oppress.

The government is more than happy to except anyone into the country if they are billionaires, they are given undue rights. Never is it asked where their money comes from.

The poor are treated with contempt. If i could id close all these dirty prison type places where these frightened, tortured soles are being held captive.

How can anyone take joy from sex if the other party is doing it against their will? The fact they cant even speak english is evidence enough of this.

Laurelin // Posted 22 April 2011 at 8:29 pm

Please everyone write your MPs about the withdrawal of funding from the Poppy Project!!! We must show that we will fight.

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