Next Thursday (18 October) is Anti-Slavery Day. Created in 2010, it is ‘a national day to raise awareness of the need to eradicate all forms of slavery, human trafficking and exploitation’. It also encourages government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to address the problem. This year The Salvation Army hopes the event will be etched in people’s minds, reports Sarah Olowofoyeku
WHAT do poppies, pink ribbons and temporary tattoos have in common? They are all ways in which members of the public can show solidarity and raise awareness for various causes. While poppies symbolise remembrance and pink ribbons highlight breast cancer, The Salvation Army has recently created a special limited edition temporary tattoo to raise awareness of modern slavery in the UK.
The transfers are available ahead of Anti-Slavery Day on Thursday 18 October. They can be bought from 100 of The Salvation Army’s charity shops across England and Wales for a £1 donation. The proceeds will go to its work with survivors of modern slavery, including initiatives which allow them to receive help such as employment training and English language lessons.
Major Kathy Betteridge, The Salvation Army’s director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery, says these are essential funds. She encourages people to join the campaign, saying: ‘We all have a part to play and together we can be a voice for the voiceless. Victims are bought and sold, abused and exploited for sex, drug production, cheap labour and much more. We cannot allow this to continue. We are not for sale.’
She urges people either to wear the tattoo or share it online with their friends and families.
The tattoo’s design includes a barcode to depict how people are being treated as commodities, stick figures holding hands to show people standing in solidarity against the evils of modern slavery, and the #WeAreNotForSale hashtag – the campaign’s slogan – which declares the statement that people should not be bought and sold.
The Global Slavery Index estimates that across the world more than 40 million people are victims of modern slavery. People who are sold into slavery can often face more than one type of abuse. They can be forced to work in the sex trade, domestic service, engage in criminal activity or have their organs removed to be sold.
While the problems of human trafficking and modern slavery are global and can often seem like distant issues, they do happen in the UK. The Salvation Army has held the government contract to provide support to adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales since 2011 and has supported more than 7,000 victims.
Three survivors' stories
J, a 34-year-old British man, had battled substance abuse for many years before he became homeless. At this vulnerable stage of his life, he was targeted by drug dealers, who forced him to sell drugs on their behalf, without pay.
The dealers’ behaviour quickly changed from false promises of money to threats and coercion, making it impossible for him to escape his situation.
But the police got involved and recognised that J was a victim and not a perpetrator of crime. He was referred to The Salvation Army for support and moved to another part of the country, far from where his traffickers were operating. He was supported in a Salvation Army safe house for victims of modern slavery.
Specialist support workers helped J to access services to help him with his substance abuse and his debt. He joined a gym and began receiving the benefits to which he was entitled.
With the help of Salvation Army support workers, J has now moved into independent accommodation. Thanks toThe Salvation Army’s Victim Care Fund, he was able to get a deposit and buy some basic furniture. He is still connected to the support he needs and is dealing with his addiction.
J says: ‘The Salvation Army has given me all the support I needed to start again and I am very optimistic for my future.
B, 27, left Vietnam for the promise of work abroad, but she was instead exploited for labour and sex in Russia and the UK.
She and her sister were working on their family farm in Vietnam in 2013 when they were approached by two men offering to take them abroad to work. B had separated from her husband when he became violent, and was working to support their son.
B and her sister travelled with the men to Russia and her son was left with his paternal uncle. As soon as they arrived, the men took their passports and delivered them to a clothing factory, where they worked for two years without pay, with about 70 others. She worked between ten and twelve hours a day and was repeatedly raped by the male workers.
Two years later, B and her sister were collected in a small van with eight others. Eventually they arrived in England, where B was separated from her sister. B has not seen her since that day. B was housed by a Vietnamese man. She was unaware that drugs were being grown upstairs until the house was raided by police. She was arrested and, too afraid to tell her story and with nowhere else to go, she remained quiet and ended up in prison.
After two months, B’s solicitor referred her to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and The Salvation Army moved her to a safe house. She received specialist support there for three months until she received a threatening call. Frightened for her life, she returned to her traffickers and was made to work as a prostitute. At this point she fell pregnant.
She was discovered by the police several months later and referred for a second time to the NRM. The Salvation Army again placed her in a safe house, where she was given support with legal services, her ongoing asylum claim and probation appointments. She was also provided with medical support for her pregnancy and the birth of her daughter.
B has received money from The Salvation Army’s Victim Care Fund for her daughter’s childcare, while she also accessed counselling for the emotional distress of her years of abuse. B attends weekly English classes and her language skills have improved significantly.
Five years since first being trafficked, B is building a new life for herself and her young daughter, having received safe house support from Salvation Army subcontractors, City Hearts and Black Country Women’s Aid.
T, 28, had a good life in Nigeria. He had a master’s degree in medical science and good prospects, but after suffering problems in his personal life, he began looking for a way out of Nigeria.
He met some people who said they could help him. They brought him to the UK, promising work. However the work didn’t appear and he was soon homeless.
T came across some Nigerian women working in a hair salon. They told him of people looking for workers in Scotland and they paid for his ticket to get there.
T was forced to work in a house, cleaning, washing, ironing and teaching his trafficker’s children. In the evenings he had to work in the clubs they owned – socialising with clients, cleaning the toilets and performing any other odd jobs required. His traffickers would beat him when he didn’t meet their targets.
T was made to sleep on the floor and all the money he earned went to his bosses. The small amount of cash they gave him had to be paid back to cover his ‘rent’.
They controlled everything he did, took away his phone and wouldn’t allow him to make friends. His trafficker would threaten him and tell him the police wouldn’t help, particularly after his visa ran out.
T asked for help from the pastor at the local church, but word got back to his trafficker, who beat T until his lips and nose were dripping with blood. That was when he decided to walk away.
He was homeless again until another Nigerian man he had met in the clubs said he would find him work. However, this man was connected to his trafficker and T said arriving at the new job was like moving from the frying pan to the fire.
T then went to the authorities, who referred him to The Salvation Army. He was moved to a safe house, and he continued to receive outreach support from City Hearts once he moved to independent accommodation.
‘When I was in the middle of being exploited, it seemed like it couldn’t be worse than being homeless and without food or shelter,’ T said. ‘But now looking back I am shocked at the thought that I was a slave to these people. When I think about the future I feel quietly confident that slowly but surely I will get there.’
- Visit salvationarmy.org.uk for information on how to spot the signs of modern slavery. If you suspect someone is in danger, or if you are in danger, you can call the 24-hour confidential referral helpline on 0300 303 8151.
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