SWOU Statement on ‘Operation Lanhydrock’ Raids

Sex Worker Open University is extremely concerned by last night’s raids on (presumed) sex work premises in Chinatown and Soho. ‘Operation Lanhydrock’ has been described in the press as an anti-trafficking raid, however this is clearly not about the safety or rights of the women “rescued”, who have been taken into immigration detention. It seems likely that they will be deported. Immigration detention centres such as Yarl’s Wood have been documented to be places of endemic abuse for those detained there, making the police statement that these women have been taken to “a place of safety” a sadly disturbing claim.
 
The phrase ‘anti-trafficking’ in the police press release gives these raids a form of progressive cover – but it would be extremely naive, after a summer of of raids such as those at Byron Burger, and ever-mounting anti-migrant rhetoric from the government, to imagine that the police and immigration service act in the best interests of migrants or the best interests of workers. At the very least, regardless of your perspective on sex work, a perspective of deep skepticism towards the police and immigration services’ representation of their own motives and actions is crucial.
 
We also want to highlight the police seizure of £35,000. Again, regardless of your views on sex work, this money clearly belongs to the women who were working in these premises. However, lack of police accountability to migrant workers, and the horrendously broad proceeds of crime act make it highly likely that these women will not see this money – their money – again. The police claim that “the operation is aimed at bringing to justice those who seek to profit from the exploitation of vulnerable people” is deeply ironic given that the police themselves have profited in this raid from their own exploitation of vulnerable people to the tune of £35,000. The criminalisation of both prostitution and migration is extremely profitable for the state.
 
Sex Worker Open University is calling for the immediate release of the women arrested last night, the return of their money to them, and an end to racist, anti-migrant, anti-prostitution raids in Soho and Chinatown.