Modern Slavery and Trafficking

It had been a full and interesting conference. The speakers had been inspiring and the discussions varied and intriguing, promising further debate in clubs throughout SIGBI. This session was no exception.

The four professionals brought together to discuss this issue were knowledgeable specialists in the field of modern slavery and trafficking. I looked forward to their session with interest having already been involved in an awareness raising event in my local area with Thanet Soroptimist. We had recently put forward an expression of interest to hold a panel discussion session in 2018 for IWD.

Barbara Dixon, Programme Director, opened the session with a brief history on the William Wilberforce, the pioneer against slavery in the UK.  Not having heard this before I found it very sad and moving.

Barbara went on to introduce Kevin Hyland, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner OBE, who though not able to attend the conference in person, gave a comprehensive presentation of this priory issue via video. Kevin Identified the initial hurdle of disbelief amongst professionals and public alike, that the crime of slavery actually existed. He talked about turning, “Apathy into Action” highlighting the role Soroptimist International had begun in creating discussions and raising awareness. He advised that first priority has been to train the statutory agencies in identification and rapid response, particularly those front-line workers such as the NHS, Police and Social services. Kevin acknowledged the action taken by the Royal College of Nursing and the NHS, the latter producing a complete training package for staff.

Kevin continued his presentation providing figures on Modern Slavery crimes, which totalled 2,255 last year, an increase of 159%, caused by victims coming forward and more action taken to prosecute. This has been made possible by international officials joining with border Police. The Co-op were acknowledged by Kevin for providing employment positions for ex-slavery victims. I thought this an excellent strategy by the Co-op and I for one believe these type of employers should receive formal recognition for their compassion and service.

Kevin spoke about creating environments with transparent supply chains and the crucial roles universities and institutions have in providing research in this area. Providing anecdotal evidence, he identified that 40,00 000 individuals are living in slavery worldwide and that, “Too many children are robbed of their innocence.”

Kevin finished his talk stating that, “Modern Slavery must be seen as Serious Criminal Abuse.”

   

Stephen Chapman, the first and only officially appointed Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator (Wales) in the UK, and Kim-Ann Williamson, member of the Wales Anti-slavery Leadership Group (CPS), spoke about delivering the Anti-slavery agenda in Wales.  Stephen acknowledged the “invisible chains” of slavery with 3,805 cases referred nationally last year.

He echoed Kevin Hyland’s words regarding disbelief and denial of the issues, but was able to inform the conference that the case rate in 2016 of 4 children, had now risen to 69 in 2017, with the youngest child rescued being just 2 yrs old. I liked his term of using a “Doves and Hawk” approach to discover and support victims whilst prosecuting criminals. In Wales, a Code of Practice on ethical supply chains has been initiated and the public sector signed up.

Barbara asked the question to Stephen, how to beat slavery? His replied concluded that there was “no silver bullet.”

Kim-Ann introduced conference members to the Welsh anti-slavery logo – Dewi, the red welsh dragon with a blue blindfold around his eyes. I felt it a very poignant and reminiscent of Pudsey from Child in Need, which these children are.

Kim informed us of the SIGBI survey carried out by members. They were very pleased with the response. 3,780 replied on-line and 3050 via paper. The result will be known in early 2018 at their Belfast event. She reported on the booklets devised for hotels and universities, plus the role of Ambassadors and Independent Child Trafficking Advocates.

Finally, Kim reminded members that, “Anti-slavery work needs to be done every day not just on anti-slavery day.”

Barbara asked Kim the question, how much more can SI help? She replied, to continue with what we are doing and highlight hard-to-reach pockets of the community.

   

Angelina Rodrigues, presented from (BAWSO) Established in 1995, Bawso is an all Wales, Welsh Government Accredited Support Provider, delivering specialist services to people from Black and Ethnic Minority (BME) backgrounds who are affected by domestic abuse and other forms of abuse, including Female Genital Mutilation, Forced Marriage, Human Trafficking & Prostitution.

In addition to providing housing, in partnership with other agencies, they also run separate refuges for women and men. Recently, asylum refugees are coming forward to advise that they have been trafficked and they are currently supporting 50 – 90 individuals with Albania being a high source country.

Barbara posed Angelina the question, what more can we do for BAWSO? She identified that they struggle to keep their 24 help-line open, so volunteers would be great. Also packages of clothes/toiletries and donations are always useful. SI could continue spreading the word volunteering expertise in certain areas.

At the end of the session, Barbara provided a sobering thought when she pointed out that the clothes we were wearing, the nails we may have done, could have been completed by someone in slavery.

Carol Salter, Associate Member (founder Member of the soon-to-be-chartered Thanet Club)