Tower Hamlets cracks down on illegal trading

Nanu's juice stall. Photo: Mohammed Al Kawari

Tower Hamlets have announced Operation Hawker, a plan to target illegal traders in Brick Lane with stricter fines, prosecution or expulsion from the borough.

Brick Lane is one of the busiest weekend markets in London, attracting traders from all over the world.

Mohammed Ayoob, 28 from Afghanistan sells leather products made in his home country. He said: “It’s unfair for us if these illegal traders keep appearing in this market because we pay for licensing and insurance whereas they have zero costs. They damage the market and effect our business so I think it’s a very good step from the council.”

Other traders were less convinced. Not all businesses are directly affected, and some traders feel that the police and Council actions are unlikely to stop unlicensed trading.

Ed, a 22-year-old cosmetics trader from north England, believes it is impossible to eliminate the illegal trading because the number of illegal traders is in fact growing in Brick Lane.

Nanu, 29 from Sri Lanka, sells fruit and fresh juices. He doesn’t feel illegal trading has a direct effect on his business: “There are only two fresh juice stands here, and usually most of the illegal traders deal with clothes and stolen products so we’re not much affected by them.”

We also spoke to one of the illegal traders; Ahmed, a 26-year-old who is French-Algeran. He was selling his own belongings; shoes, jackets, etc.  He said: “I have to do this to live, I don’t have an income and I came to London with a big dream but I didn’t find a job.” Ahmed is a graduate from a French university as a graphic designer. While we were talking to him police came and began to investigate some other traders, but Ahmed had the chance to run away.

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