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Hiding in Plain Sight: a conference on Modern Day Slavery and Human Trafficking

SI Cirencester holds anti-trafficking conference

On 24th November 2023, members of Swindon Soroptimists welcomed the chance to visit Cirencester for the Hiding in Plain Sight conference, held by the Soroptimist clubs of Cirencester and Cheltenham. The conference was organised by the two clubs to educate attendees on how to spot the signs of modern day slavery. Over the course of the day, our members Lydia, Gillian, Lynnette and Corrine heard from multiple experts in the field of modern day slavery and human trafficking.

Scale of slavery today

The conference was opened by the President of SI Cirencester, Jill Lang. The Mayor of Cirencester, Sabrina Dixon, welcomed the out-of-town visitors to Cirencester itself, before handing over the microphone to Elizabeth Muir from Anti-Slavery International. Elizabeth Muir outlined the true magnitude of slavery around the globe today: 49 million are in slavery, equating to 1 in every 150 people worldwide.

History of anti-trafficking campaigning

Major Heather Grinsted from the Salvation Army spoke about her work as the Deputy Director for the Anti-Trafficking and Modern Slavery Unit for UK and Ireland. It was incredibly informative to learn about the Salvation Army’s long history tackling human trafficking and how it continues the fight into the present-day.

If you have come into contact with someone who you suspect may be a victim of modern slavery and in need of help, you can phone the Salvation Army’s free 24/7 confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733 

Slavery in the UK

Inspector Rosie Higgins from Gloucestershire Police, who is the Gloucestershire Constabulary’s lead on intelligence development around modern slavery and human trafficking, described the forms of modern slavery most prevalent in the UK. Staggeringly, 52% of victims in UK-based modern slavery are children.

Inspector Higgins explained that children of both sexes are forced into criminal activity, and into sexual exploitation, but that people were less likely to notice and report the signs of county lines involvement in girls, and of sexual exploitation in boys. She urged the audience to remain alert for the signs of forced criminal activity and sexual exploitation, no matter the sex of the possible victim.

Inspector Higgins went on to give guidance on what to do next, if we should suspect that someone is a victim of modern slavery.

How to report the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking

You can make a report to the police by calling the non-emergency police phoneline, 101. If you can’t currently wait for 101 to answer your call, you can also immediately contact the police online to report what you have seen, using the 101 web portal for reporting crimes. Follow the link to access the web portal for 101.

Alternatively, you can report it to Crimestoppers anonymously, either via phone on 0800 555 111 or online.

Finally, you can call the UK Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline on 08000 121 700 or file an online report to the modern slavery helpline via anti-slavery charity Unseen UK.

‘Orange Day’ and the Role of a PCC

Chris Nelson, the Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), was the final speaker. He summarised the duties of a police and crime commissioner, before sharing his observations on modern slavery and trafficking in Gloucestershire. Appropriately enough for an occasion held the day before the 25th of the month, which is the UN’s monthly Orange Day to end violence against women and girls, he went on to discuss his work addressing male violence against women and girls in the area. He noted that crime is under-reported in general and specifically, that approximately 80% of violence towards women and girls is never reported to the police.

Our members themselves made sure to mark the occasion by wearing orange!

From left to right, Lynnette, Gillian, Lydia and Corrine, all clad in orange to mark the coming Orange Day

It was a truly fascinating day, and we very much valued the opportunity to hear so many specialists share their expertise.

‘Thank You’

SI Swindon would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to SI Cirencester and SI Cheltenham for their work organising the event – including providing lunch and coffee! – and to the speakers for their informative addresses.