The Salvation Army today staged the first in a series of street dramas in Edinburgh to raise awareness of human trafficking.
The joint initiative, organised by The Salvation Army’s Scotland Office and the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group took place during the Edinburgh Festival's Just Festival – and saw a market stall set up to 'sell' people as commodities – based on real life stories of human trafficking victims.
Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Roberts, The Salvation Army’s Assistant to the Secretary for Scotland, said: "Human trafficking is taking place all around us; in our local communities and perhaps around the corner from where we live. We want people to know they can play a role in stamping it out.
"The Salvation Army has a long history of supporting victims of human trafficking and pressing for their legal protection. In England and Wales we have provided support services to more than 2000 adult victims of human trafficking in the past four years.”
The street drama is the idea of Keith Turton, The Salvation Army’s drama co-ordinator. Keith said: "We think of slavery as people being chained up and in ropes. That may have been the case hundreds of years ago but nowadays it’s much less obvious to the casual observer.
"And so the idea is to have a market stall where we will pretend to sell human beings. We will have a rail of clothing that depicts the work that people do. You can dress these people up to show how they are seen as just commodities.
“It’s a dramatic way of highlighting the issue of trafficking and it’s a way of saying: ‘people shouldn’t be bought or sold.’”
Hazel Watson, Convener of the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, added: “All human beings have intrinsic value and have the right to live with dignity in freedom. This drama, shocking as it is itself, is a way of highlighting the reality of human trafficking that is far more shocking. We can all play our part in efforts to combat this horrendous crime.”
The Salvation Army, along with the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group, has contributed to the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Bill, which is currently going through the Scottish Parliament. The Bill will create a specific offence of human trafficking for the first time as well as increase the maximum penalty for offenders to life imprisonment.
Lt-Col Roberts added: “The Salvation Army welcomes this new legislation being introduced by the Scottish Government because it aims to keep victims central, both by tackling offenders and supporting victims.”
The Salvation Army and the Scottish Churches Anti-Human Trafficking Group also began using the UN Gift Box initiative to raise awareness of human trafficking. The initiative is created by Stop The Traffik and the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Trafficking (UN GIFT). Two large, walk-in boxes have been created to symbolise trafficking and will be dotted around Edinburgh to provide information and first-hand accounts and pictures from victims inside. Each box highlights a specific aspect of human trafficking – be it forced labour or sexual exploitation.