Michael Smith, Regional Community Cohesion Co-ordinator for Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Powys, with specific responsibility for modern slavery and hate crime, organised a ‘Safer Pembrokeshire’ Exhibition at the Pembrokeshire County Show in order to increase awareness of the issues involved. Soroptimist International Tenby was proud to take part in this event, as many statutory agencies, such as Border Force, Victim Support, Women’s Aid and Anti-Drug Abuse were also present. SI Tenby Programme Action Officer for Modern Slavery Dr. Anne Kelly was therefore able to showcase SI Tenby’s on-going programme to raise awareness of modern slavery. Fellow Soroptimist Mary Fleming assisted Dr. Kelly in setting up the display prior to the show and throughout Tuesday, whilst SI Tenby members Pam Maggs, Pat Matthews and Lindsay Oeppen were able to offer support for part of the day.
Only a week ago SI Tenby was mentioned in a report given at the United Nations, for their pioneering work on increasing awareness of modern slavery since 2007. This work contributed to the Welsh Government’s sterling efforts to prevent the crime in Wales. Later the Regional body for Soroptimist International, SI Wales South, joined in the campaign, though by then Tenby had already lobbied local MPs and Westminster Parliament campaigning for new legislation to abolish this crime, maintaining local momentum by holding forums, competitions and various fund raising events involving many of Tenby’s schools and organisations in its work for the support of victims and the introduction of new laws. These laws have materialised in the new Modern Slavery Act and the Legislation for Transparency in the Supply Chain of Goods [2015 and 2016].
However, the crime is still escalating all over the UK. Currently there are 300 on-going police crime cases throughout the country. Wales is certainly not excluded; there have been several here and there is still much more to do. SI Wales South will continue their work with Dyfed Powys Police Forum, led by CDI Ross Evans, to help eradicate this heinous crime. They are also joined by members of the Health Authorities, BAWSO, Barnardos Wales and the Pembrokeshire Hoteliers. In addition, Michael Smith has implemented a policy for all the County Councils in order to help tackle modern slavery. Particular concerns have focused on a recent scheme, initiated by Barnardos Wales, with a Westminster Government grant to provide a Children’s Advocate for South Wales, which has identified approximately forty affected children within the South Wales area. Only 10% of these children had been trafficked into the country – the remainder were Welsh children, one of whom was only two, one three and one five years old. The remainder were teenagers. Such shocking facts cannot be tolerated in twenty-first century Wales and SI Tenby will continue to make modern slavery a priority for future programme action initiatives.
This was the first day of the County Show and large numbers visited the Dyfed Powys Police Exhibition, allowing Dr. Kelly and her team the opportunity to engage with a wide cross-section of visitors, offer information about human trafficking, and discuss ways to support the nationwide campaign to end modern slavery. Over 400 visitors to the County Show discussed the situation with SI Tenby members. Many were concerned and aware because of current TV publicity of the crime, and some had even known of the crime happening within Pembrokeshire. A large number took away posters and leaflets to display on community notice boards in order to raise awareness of modern slavery throughout Wales.
This is second year in succession that SI Tenby has collaborated with Pembrokeshire County Council at the Annual Pembrokeshire County Show to raise awareness of the evils of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking, both of which are now the most prevalent and lucrative crimes next to drug trafficking.
SI Tenby’s concern about the crimes of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking began in 2007, this was the year of the bi-centenary of the abolition of slavery in Great Britain,yet we found the crime was still happening. A local AM who was raising awareness of the crime and needed support encouraged oir club to become involved in raising awareness of the issues. In 2009, our resolve to increase awareness of these crimes was strengthened when we heard that such crimes were actually happening in our own community. One such crime was reported in the national press, it involved the trafficking of nine young African girls who had each paid the perpetrators of crime a large sum of money, believing that they would come to Great Britain to train as hairdressers, instead they were forced into prostitution. Another case involved a young local girl in internet crime.
Our awareness raising activities have involved film nights, competitions, the production of a booklet, containing local children’s views of slavery, a number of forums which have involved AMs, MPs, local dignitaries, and specialist speakers, as well as local sixth formers who learned many skills of presentation and lobbying in the process of their involvement, sponsored walks, brunches, afternoon tea,presentations at the Welsh Government, and other organisations and lobbying at Westminster Parliament.
Some of these activities have also raised a great deal of money which has been distributed to organisations which support victims of crime, such as the Salvation Army, BAWSO Wales and Barnardos Wales. Even more importantly we believe that our activities influenced thinking on the need for legislation to control modern slavery and human trafficking crimes, certainly we know that local MPs did much to focus the attention of legislators onto the issues. We were therefore delighted when the Modern Slavery Bill  and the Code of Practice – Ethical Practice in Supply Chains  were passed. Yet there is still much to do to prevent these crimes.
For the past three years Soroptimists in Wales have been working closely with the Co-ordinator for Modern Slavery, Mr Stephen Chapman and the Welsh Government Department to increase awareness of the crime. Within Wales, five multidisciplinary police forums have been established to serve the north, south, east and west of the country, there are Soroptimist members on all of these groups, they work closely with other members who are representatives of all statutory and some voluntary agencies within the respective areas. West Wales is served by the Dyfed Powys Police Forum, which is headed by DCI Ross Evans, the aim of this group is to raise awareness of the crime throughout the whole area, as there is great concern over the likelihood of the crime happening within farming and coastal communities.
If you wish to join with SI Tenby to promote Soroptimism and increase awareness of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking crimes please get in touch.