These days, now I am retired and a free agent (albeit unpaid), I tend to ration the meetings I attend to what I deem as being strictly necessary to my particular calling as a community activist. But when a friend passed onto me an invite to a conference to do with modern day slavery and human trafficking, to be held at the college in the centre of my town, I couldn’t resist having heard harrowing stories of rough sleepers being exploited, and so I attended, and glad I did.
The conference was organized by the same local college and most of those attending were social work students, with a smattering of folk, working as it were in this field. The speakers were a representative from the Salvation Army, a local police officer and someone from the charity Stop the Traffik, whose strapline is “People shouldn’t be brought and sold”. Their presentations were helpful and my hope is that those attending will become informed activists, intent on stopping this particularly unpleasant crime, where the vulnerable are callously exploited. It seems the perpetrators often get away with their crimes and I suspect few are even aware it is happening.
To an extent, it felt a bit like preaching to the converted, inasmuch I was well aware that while modern day slavery is a widespread occurrence worldwide, including in the UK, and in ways hardly thought of in the days William Wilberforce campaigned for its abolition, but even so, there was a lot said in a short time that brought home to me that this was an issue needing dealing with and some of the disturbing facts. There is lots of terms of statistics and stories on the Internet for those wanting to know more but this short video does well to set out many of the key factors.
What is worrying, this criminal activity is also happening on my doorstep. During the question and answer session two members of statutory organizations related their knowledge of what is happening, along with their frustration that not enough is being done to stop it. One of the heartening stories was in one area (Manchester) interested parties got together and were able to pool resources and intelligence, in order to tackle the problems and help take to task the ruthless, well-organised gangs who would otherwise profit, and my hope is that we will see something similar done in my own neck of the woods. As one working among the homeless, a vulnerable group if ever there was one, I have heard disturbing stories involving particularly vulnerable people I know, who have been trafficked, having to endure exploitation, whereby their relationship with those doing the exploiting is that of a slave.
A conversation with two rough sleeper friends, whose circumstances and vulnerability I was aware of, over the weekend, confirmed as much. I am grateful to those who have raised this serious matter. There is work to be done and networks to be established.It is for these reasons, the aforementioned police lady will be speaking on the subject at the next SHAN meeting (see here for details).