No easy answers to prostitution in Ilford Lane, say Redbridge charities

The Redbridge Street Pastors and the Salvation Army are setting up a prostitute drop in centre in Il

The Redbridge Street Pastors and the Salvation Army are setting up a prostitute drop in centre in Ilford. Monica Abvala. - Credit: Archant

A charity worker who leads night-time patrols to help women leave prostitution said the issue is a complex one and does not have any easy answers.

After claims were made in the national press about whether police enforcement tactics can actually put prostitutes at risk, the problem of sex workers, particularly in Ilford Lane, is firmly back on the agenda.

Monica Abdala, from Redbridge Street Pastors, works to build trust with the women and also runs a clinic to provide educational and health support.

She said the success of the police operation depends on who you ask.

“If you speak to the residents they say it’s working but if you ask us, it’s not, because when you go out you still see women,” Mrs Abdala said.

“It’s very complicated and even the experts cannot agree on what should be happening and what’s the right way to deal with this issue.”

She said that she agrees with police that the focus should be on arresting kerb crawlers but fines given to prostitutes often mean they have to work more to pay them off.

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She added: “The police have to do their job so how do you balance it? When you have police left, right and centre the women are fined but it’s not the whole story.”

One of the most difficult tasks facing police working to rid the streets of prostitution is tackling the groups who control the women.

Rita Chadha from the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London has been working with police to help women in prostitution, particularly surrounding immigration issues.

The chief executive of the charity in High Road, Ilford, said the problem is far from simple to solve. “It remains the case that, for many of the women caught up in the system, they remain as fearful of the authorities as the men and groups that control them,” she said.

“It takes time to build trust and understanding. Sadly there are no quick fixes.”