Buying, transporting, selling and enslaving people, for profit.
Horrendous, isn’t it. I cannot even begin to imagine how it would feel, waking up in the morning and knowing that I will have no choice about what I do all day, no chance of keeping the money I have earned through doing it, that I’ll only get fed if someone else sees fit to feed me, and that I might well be beaten and/or subjected to sexual violence by my captors. And that when I get to fall asleep again, it’ll only be a temporary respite, because the nightmare will simply start again when I wake up.
This isn’t happening in the days of ancient roman slavery, or medieval fiefdom or even 19th century America. This is happening now, in the 21st Century, throughout our supposedly civilised world and on our doorsteps.
How does someone become a commodity, a chattel, a possession? How can one person gain control over another to that extent? Well, it’s not one person, for a start. Human traffickers operate in gangs, often spanning international borders, in a slick operational line which starts with a friendly face and the promise of a better, happier, safer life for the victim and their family. Sometimes – especially where children are concerned – the friendly face isn’t necessary – just brute force. The younger the easier, probably – it is an awful thing to know that children as young as three have been trafficked into the UK, for sex.
Once recruited, whether by force or by guile, the victims are transported to their destination, where they are made to hand over any identifying documentation before being set up in menial, labouring or sex jobs, having to give up everything they earn. In theory, there may be opportunities to escape – but would you, if you were told on a daily basis that your family, your children, would be killed if you did so? Or if you were in fear of being deported back to a war zone? Or if you were a child who spoke no English and had no idea where you would go to even if you did manage to slip away? And knowing that if you did go, and you were found and brought back, you’d probably be beaten to within an inch of your life? No, me neither.
So, like I said, horrendous. But probably, in these civilised times, we’re getting on top of the problem, yes? All those accords and treaties and directives must be moving some way towards stamping out the problem, surely. Uh, no. Not quite. It’s recently been reported in New Europe Magazine that trafficking in Europe increased by 18% between 2008 and 2010. Despite this, arrests are down, probably because only 6 out of 27 EU countries have integrated anti-trafficking directives into their legislation. (No, don’t even bother asking, of course we didn’t, the Toryboys are too busy dismantling the NHS and spreading the skivers versus scroungers rhetoric to get involved in such a non-vote winning issue.)
So human trafficking is on the increase, the political will to tackle it is on the decrease. Where does that leave the victims? Quite possibly in a nail bar or massage parlour near you. Yes, really. Just TODAY, six people in Derby were charged with trafficking men into the UK. Last month, the Independent carried an article highlighting that victims of trafficking in the UK are more likely to be prosecuted than the perpetrators. In the same article, you can read about how trafficked victims who did approach the police were fobbed off with that old ‘we can’t interfere in domestic affairs’ line, Nice, huh.
While governments here and abroad, not to mention our esteemed police force, are busy ignoring the matter, there are, luckily, a handful of organisations which exist to raise awareness of this issue, and to work towards stamping it out all together. One such organisation is Hope for Justice. Their website makes sobering reading, and is a good place to start if you want to find out more about the scale of the problem, and what you can do to help.
I didn’t know much about human trafficking before my friend began raising money for Hope for Justice. But now I do know, I want to do something about it, however small, so I’m using my place in this years Cardiff Half Marathon to raise some cash. I’ve set myself a target of £200, and I’d be massively grateful if you could help in any of the following ways:
- You could donate £2 via my Justgiving Page
- You could share this post, or my Justgiving page
- You could vote for my friend Liz to win £5,000 for Hope for Justice with Mountain Warehouse. Liz is putting my half marathon to shame with a programme of events ranging from abseiling to doing the Welsh Three Peaks (4 times!!)
Thank you for reading, and if you feel able to donate and/or share, thank you again.