Guardian view

A human tragedy, taking place right here on our doorstep, is reaching such frightening levels the Croydon Guardian feels compelled to act.

Today we are highlighting the appalling and terrifying trade that sees hundreds of women and children forced to commit disturbing sexual acts every day.

The sex trade in our town is growing faster than anywhere else, but tackling the issue is far from straightforward.

We're all aware of the oldest profession in the world and no one is suggesting we wage war on prostitution. But, if we don't do something to help save the unwilling victims caught up in this age-old trade we are all guilty by our inaction.

That sex slaves are being lured or forced into Britain under duress no-one can deny.

The Croydon Guardian, like lots of other newspapers, has been accused of facilitating this appalling phenomenon by taking advertisements under the heading of adult services.

But taking ads from massage parlours, chatlines and other such places is not a black and white issue.

There are people who choose to offer certain services who act entirely within the law - and we are legally obliged to accept and publish such advertisements.

We do, however, work very closely with all interested organisations, including the police, and if anyone has evidence of any advertiser acting outside the law please contact us immediately.

Where concerns are raised about particular adverts we will do our utmost to investigate and where appropriate they will be stopped.

By highlighting this issue today we hope to prove we are 100 per cent committed to playing our part in helping to end this human tragedy.

Migrants seeking asylum in Croydon could be "extremely vulnerable" to the borough's fast-growing sex trafficking industry, a campaign group has claimed.

Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT) believes there could be a significant correlation between the borough's burgeoning sex trafficking industry and the high volume of foreign nationals who pass through Lunar House.

Representatives from the organisation say Croydon is now known to be one of the main entry ports for trafficking and that we have the third largest sex industry in the UK.

They believe many of the borough's sex workers have been forced into prostitution.

A spokesman from CCAT said: "Croydon not only has the third largest sex industry but it's a fast growing one. During our research we discovered the rate of which brothels were opened in Croydon in the last year had grown by 30 per cent.

"Trafficking is a form of modern slavery. Our belief is that anyone who has sex with a trafficked woman is guilty of rape as she's being held against her will.

"There are some services offered in Croydon which no woman who is working independently would do. Any services which offer a range of girls of different nationalities are very likely to have access to trafficked women.

"Although we do not have any hard evidence, we believe there could well be links between trafficked women and the migrants who come to Croydon seeking asylum. This needs to be subject to further investigation. Asylum seekers are extremely vulnerable."

CCAT's investigations of Croydon's sex trade began following a report titled Sex in the City' from the London-based Poppy Project, which established that the borough has one of the largest sex industries in the country.

The borough was also identified as one of the towns where trafficked women were being sent in significant numbers.

During their research into Croydon's establishments, which included massage parlours, escort agencies and other legitimate' businesses, CCAT say they discovered most of the women working in Croydon's sex trade were not British nationals and that it was likely the majority of these women may have been trafficked - either by prostitution rings or by organised gangs of traffickers.

Croydon Council said it has been working closely with CCAT over the last year and that if any trafficking was taking place in Croydon it is a criminal offence.

A spokesman said: "Girls working alone offering massage services are required to apply for a special treatment' licence that enables us to warn them about their safety and to operate within the law.

"The suggestion that there is a correlation between sex trafficking in the borough and those seeking assistance from Lunar House is just that - a suggestion. Clearly, there are a lot of vulnerable people in the borough and this vulnerability can expose them to unlawful practises and dangers."

A spokesman from the Home Office said: "We are unaware of any links between trafficked sex workers and migrants visiting Lunar House. Anyone who suspects anything like this should contact the police immediately."