The Salvation Army marks 20 years of Morecambe Bay tragedy
published on 6 Feb 2024
The Salvation Army urges people to spot the signs of modern slavery as it marks 20 years since Morecambe cockle picking tragedy
The Salvation Army is marking the 20th anniversary of the Morecambe Bay cockle picking tragedy by reinforcing the importance of spotting the signs of modern slavery.
Two decades on from the disaster that saw 23 Chinese cockle pickers stranded from incoming tides and drowned off Morecambe Bay, The Salvation Army remembered the victims and their families with an event in Fleetwood on the evening of Monday, February 5, exactly 20 years on from the disaster. Following this needless loss of life important changes including the creation of the Gangmasters Labour Abuse Authority and the Modern Slavery Act (2015) were put in place, but the number of survivors of modern slavery being referred to The Salvation Army’s specialist support services continues to rise every year.
Council officials, RNLI coastguard, local churches and charities joined forces with The Salvation Army where a short ceremony took place on the beach. Members of the church and charity’s anti-trafficking department released a 100% biodegradable Chinese lantern into the sky which included a message from survivors currently supported in the North West through its modern slavery services. The name of each of the 23 victims was written on the lantern alongside the words: “To those whose flame has been extinguished, let this light represent our love and compassion… we will never forget you”.
Major Estelle Blake, territorial chaplain for The Salvation Army’s Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery department said: “We felt personally motivated to do something to remember the people who lost their lives to this awful tragedy. They are victims of the terrible crime that is modern slavery and human trafficking. Back then, twenty years ago, little was known about modern slavery, but this horrible event paved the way for helping survivors of modern slavery and laws changed as a result, shaping the UK policing response to this appalling crime.
“This disaster was never truly linked to modern slavery, locally or nationally, and we feel it is our duty to educate people about exploitation and spread awareness of the dangers that are still present in every community in this country and across the world. Modern slavery hides in plain sight, and we pray and will continue to work for change for the people who are exploited. We encourage everyone to spot the signs of modern slavery and help put an end to it today.”
Recently, The Salvation Army published a report which showed the number of people being supported by its modern slavery services around the UK has increased in every region across England and Wales in the last year. This includes North West England where 344 people were rescued and supported in safe houses and outreach services run by The Salvation Army with its partners. This is an increase of 46 people on the previous year and amounted to 10 percent of the total number of people referred from England and Wales. Many had been forced to commit crimes, work against their will, or coerced into sex work. The report can be found here.
The Salvation Army provides specialist support to protect and care for all adult survivors of modern slavery in England and Wales through a government contract which was first awarded in 2011.
Spot the signs of modern slavery:
Some signs are physical:
- They may look anxious, dishevelled, or malnourished.
- They may have untreated injuries.
Some signs are less obvious:
- Someone paying for their travel
- Someone speaking for them
- Perhaps they are picked up and dropped off from work at unusual times
- They may not be sure of their own address
The Salvation Army’s free confidential 24/7 referral helpline 0800 808 3733 is available for anyone who suspects they or someone they have met may be a victim of modern slavery and needs help.
Over the last 12 years, The Salvation Army’s and its partners’ specialist support workers have helped 21,824 survivors get medical care, counselling and legal advice and a safe place to stay where needed.