On Friday 16th March, a very successful and informative ‘Question Time’ event was held for sixth form pupils at St. Mary’s College in Crosby. Thanks to Mr Anthony Browne, the Caritas volunteer coordinator for Human Trafficking who put together the panel, we were able to invite a number of schools from across the Northwest region to a question and answer session with leading experts in the field. Following some contextualising video input about who human trafficking and enslavement affects, students from each school put forward their questions to the panel, via the excellent chair; Mark Wiggin who is the Director of Caritas, Salford.
Question: What is the biggest challenge with human trafficking? Answer: supply and demand; if we didn’t demand cheap services and goods there would be no need to supply enslaved humans.
Students were, it seems, surprised at the extent of the problem in the UK. Modern slavery and human trafficking constitutes the third largest crime problem in the UK. The experts explained that the public, through lack of awareness, cannot make an informed choice; we choose ‘Fair Trade’ when we go to the supermarket but how do we know that the car-wash attendant or nail technician who cannot speak English and never takes our money directly is working of their own volition? Answer; we don’t. Many such workers are trafficked into the UK as migrants and then forced to work, never taught English. This situation of enforced slavery can last, in some cases, tens of years.
Who is at risk of trafficking? In Eastern Europe, many people from very poor backgrounds become embroiled in trafficking just in search of a better life. In Africa, it is thought by many that the streets of Europe are paved with gold, in search of a better life, many young Africans end up in the slave markets of Libya and are sold into prostitution or enforced labour. In Europe, migrants who pay traffickers are sometimes enslaved and forced to ‘pay back their trafficking debt ad infinitum. In a Medaille trust safe house, here in the North West there are clients from Germany, Australia, Poland as well as African and Asian countries.
Question: How do we raise our concern? If someone you notice working in, for example, a pop-up car wash looks dishevelled, or inappropriately dressed, will not look you in the eye, passes payment straight to a ‘boss’ and does not speak English this person could be a victim of modern slavery. If in doubt – tell someone; a teacher or the police. Ring the Modern Slavery Helpline: 0800 121 700, you can do this anonymously. Police officers will proceed very gently with the reported incident, to discover that everything is as it should be with that person and the organisation. It is better to have the confidence to report the situation than to ignore it. Your phone call could set the ball rolling or be the last piece in a puzzle, already being worked on by the anti-trafficking police. You could be saving someone.
Question: what are the immediate and long-term needs of someone rescued from trafficking? Sam from the Medaille Trust who runs a safe house for male victims of trafficking told us that immediately people need a place of safety, to be fed, clothed and kept warm. Later, their long-term needs are addressed they get health care, help to gain their leave to remain in the UK if that is what they wish, accommodation, help to find employment and long-term psychological support. But, the scars of trafficking
will be with them forever.
Students were asked, following some time for group discussion what actions they would now undertake in their schools and communities to raise awareness around this issue. They promised to highlight awareness via the UNHCR ‘Blue Heart’ campaign, selling badges in their schools as well as giving assemblies and create awareness campaigns in their schools about trafficking and modern slavery.
Want to know more? Search: www.unseen.org
Mark Wiggin, Director of Cartias Salford (Chair)
Mick Duthie, Deputy Director, Santa Marta Group
Sam Baxendale, North West Regional Manager, The Medaille Trust
DCI Mark Vaughton Head of Anti-Trafficking, East Lancashire Police
St. Mary’s College, Crosby
St. Edward’s College, Liverpool
St. Anselm’s College, Birkenhead
Merchant Taylor’s Girl’s school, Crosby
Archbishop Beck School, Liverpool
Maricourt High School, Maghull
De la Salle School, St Helen’s
O God, we thank you for the life of Edmund Rice.
He opened his heart to Christ present in those oppressed by poverty and injustice.
May we follow his example of faith and generosity.
Grant us the courage and compassion of Edmund as we seek to live lives of love and service.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.