Raped, beaten, drugged and forced into prostitution – the reality of Ilford’s ‘working girls’
When 19-year-old Bangladeshi Anika got a job as a cleaner in a London hotel, her family were so proud of her they told everyone in their village.
But on arrival in the UK, Anika – not her real name – was drugged, raped and locked in a house.
The men stole her passport and forced her to work as a prostitute for the next seven months before she managed to escape.
She was picked up by a man who said he would help her, only for him to beat and rape her, before putting her to work again.
Rita Chadha, director of the Refugee and Migrant Forum of East London, High Road, Ilford, said Anika was brought to them after turning up very confused at Ilford Police Station.
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She said Anika’s experience is not unusual.
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The news comes after an undercover investigation by Panorama aired on BBC One on Monday, which exposed criminal gangs in Ilford exploiting those without official documents.
Rita says this is the reality faced by young women who have no documents either because they have overstayed their visas or have had their passports stolen by criminals.
She said: “Women are brought here to work as maids or domestic servants and are raped or exploited or are put on the game.
“These women are not entitled to benefits so the only thing they can do is sell themselves.”
She said that gangs know how to spot vulnerable women who they can force to work on the streets.
Rita said: “I’ve seen women being picked up outside Ilford Sainsbury’s. These people know what they are looking for, they hear about women through the community grapevine.”
Efforts to help those without documents return home are already being made at Singh Sabha Gurdwara, High Road, Seven Kings, but organisers said they were shocked that women were being targeted in this way.
Mankamal Singh, treasurer of the gurdwara, said: “These people have dreams and have been sold a story in India. Lots of them have paid £9-10,000 to come here, which is a massive amount of money. I think we, as a community, need to look more into the matter and address this kind of exploitation.”