Human Trafficking in the UK and Beyond

February 20, 2014 in Blog, main by Ellen MacAskill

Hear “trafficking” and of what do you think? Women being shipped around South East Asia for sex work? Crowded sweatshops in India?

These are undoubtedly huge issues but the extent of human trafficking today is more far-reaching than many realise. On Tuesday’s meeting we kicked off our new campaign with a visit from Euan of Stop the Traffik, who volunteers in the Glasgow branch of the international charity. The grassroots group raise awareness in communities to make it more difficult for traffickers to slip through the net.

Key points from the talk were as follows:

–          Trafficking should not be confused with an immigration problem.

–          Trafficking equals slavery.

–          Traffickers’ prerogative is the exploitation of vulnerability.

On the same day that we held our meeting, the National Crime Agency released a report which shows that the number of trafficked people in the UK has more than doubled in the past year. They stated that their estimate numbers will be far below the actual number, which remains hidden from view. Euan suggests that the increased statistics may be down to an improvement in detection processes. Apparently there are more slaves in the world today than there ever have been in the past.

Victims of trafficking can be lured by the promise of marriage or work. They can be forced into prostitution, unpaid labour, domestic slavery, or crime activity. Violence, rape and induced drug and alcohol addiction are all used as weapons of control. Psychological control is a less detectable but equally dangerous method.

Euan gave some specific examples of trafficking in the UK. One young Nigerian girl was promised marriage in the UK but found herself being forced to work in a brothel. When she became pregnant, she was forced into abortion, then later turned out onto the street. In another case four Czech men seeking work were enslaved in Birmingham and made to live in slum-like conditions.

The internet has put vulnerable victims within the reach of traffickers in ways that were not previously possible. The “business” is the second most profitable of all organised crime. When considering why the industry is catching up with drug-dealing in terms of money quanitites, Euan says: “You can sell a body again and again.” These chilling thoughts can go some way to explain why the problem continues to grow.

Stop the Traffik are focussing on two international campaigns at the moment, targeted at the cotton industry and the chocolate industry. Fairtrade branding only refers to the picking and harvesting of the cotton. The manufacturing stage goes un-policed and many Western clothing chains are oblivious to the fact that people in the factories they buy from have been trafficked or are being underpaid. Children, particularly in West Africa, are often used to collect cocoa beans for no payment. One Amnesty member from Ghana suggests that people there might give their children to family members to be worked on their farms for nothing, so the children themselves are not aware that they are being abused. Consumer awareness can put pressure on ignorant Western companies to decrease demand for cheap labour and tackle the problem.

In April, Stop the Traffik will be lobbying at the Scottish Parliament to push a proposed bill which addresses the issue. Amongst other things, it outlines a new victim support service and a single coherent definition of what human trafficking is. Unfortunately the Scottish Parliament have not yet backed the bill, instead turning attention to Westminster’s Modern Slavery bill, which is more focussed on crime rather than the implicated human rights abuses.

If you are in Glasgow during the Commonwealth Games, look out for Stop the Traffik’s ‘Gift Boxes’ popping up on the streets, which lure in passers-by with an attractive exterior then reveal to them the realities of human trafficking on the inside.

Have a look on http://www.stopthetraffik.org/ for more information.

 

On a brighter note: SECRET POLICEMAN’S BALL!

Hopefully you have all got your tickets by now and are looking forward to an evening of jokes and merriment.

If not then get them for the reduced advanced price of £5/7 (with after-party) up until midnight on Friday by clicking here:

http://www.guamnesty.org.uk/spb-2014/

Also if you missed it and want a taster for the event, here’s an article that qmunicate let me write about why it will be so wonderful:

http://qmunicatemagazine.com/2014/02/11/secret-policemans-ball-stand-up-for-human-rights/

See you there folks.