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In the run up to the 2012 Olympics in London, there has been talk of the potential influx of vulnerable sex workers from other countries. Newspapers report that ‘vice girls hope to strike gold’ and the Metropolitan Police received an extra £600 000 in 2009 to ‘rescue young women sold into prostitution’ to meet the demand from the construction workers and visitors to the games, but have admitted that they have not actually noticed any increase in trafficking.1 2
In recent years, the discussion of sex work has been dominated by the topic of trafficking, which appears to drive out any need for a rational debate in favour of an abolitionist agenda.3 Trafficking in people, whether for sex work or other forms of labour or exploitation including construction, agriculture and domestic services, is abhorrent, involving the denial of human rights and often extreme abuse of the individuals involved. But the majority of foreign-born sex workers are not trafficked, and the conflation of the two is making it increasingly difficult to argue for evidence-based harm-reduction policies.4 So while initiatives and funds are made available to raid brothels, curb demand, …