Life in the UK is tough for many right now – but for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking, the trauma experienced on their journey is simply unimaginable.
Anti-Slavery Day, which takes place on 18 October 2022, is an initiative that’s dedicated to raising awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking, calling on local authorities, businesses, charities and individuals to address the problem.
Anti-Slavery International, which was founded in 1839 and claims to be the world’s oldest international human rights organisation, believes that almost 50 million people are trapped in modern slavery worldwide. Victims of human trafficking and forced labour, the charity says, often fall into the trap while trying to escape poverty and insecurity, or improve their families’ lives.
According to the Metropolitan Police, people forced into modern slavery can be any age, gender, nationality or ethnicity. The police force points out that individuals are subjected to a “wide range of abuse and exploitation including sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced labour, criminal exploitation and organ harvesting”.
The impact of modern slavery on individuals is well-known to BCHA which operates The Liberty Project, a service that’s tailored to ensuring survivors receive professional support on their journey to recovery. Specialist Support Workers provide personalised care, ranging from counselling and healthcare to financial and legal advice.
Amelia – we’ve changed her name to protect her identity – came to the attention of The Liberty Project two years ago after being trafficked to the UK from her home country of Albania. Forced into an arranged marriage and assigned a fake ID, she was sent via Spain to Ireland. “They told me that this man would have to be my husband,” she says.
Aged just 25, Amelia’s ordeal in Ireland lasted from September 2019 to April 2020, when she managed to escape while being transported by car. “I ran so fast,” Amelia says. “I ran and ran. I just wanted to get far away.”
Her bid for freedom couldn’t have come at a worse time. In April 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic had just broken out and the UK had been placed in lockdown. Despite all odds, Amelia escaped from Ireland and made it to England. Unable to speak English, she remarkably found someone who spoke Albanian and asked for help – and they took her in. “I called immigration services and asked for their help, too” Amelia explains.
Specialist agencies support survivors of human trafficking using the Government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), with individuals referred to The Liberty Project via The Salvation Army. Amelia’s case worker Jennifer Renfrey, Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery Team Leader at The Liberty Project, explained the transformation that had taken place since Amelia was referred to the service.
Jennifer said: “When Ameila came to the service two years ago, she couldn’t speak English, so communication had to take place via interpreters. She was having nightmares as a result of the crimes and sexual abuse that she had suffered, and received therapy. Slowly, she started to develop and build-up new skills while studying English and Maths, enrolling to take GCSEs. She has now studied accounting up to Level 2. The change from when Amelia arrived at the service to when she left has been massive.”
Now living with friends, Amelia’s life has experienced a remarkable turnaround. She has a partner, a six month-old baby, is now fluent enough in English that she no longer requires an interpreter and is looking forward to developing her career. Her tale is proof that, despite a journey of abuse and despair, survivors who are provided with the right support can rebuild their lives for the better.
For more information about The Liberty Project or BCHA, please contact BCHA Communications Manager Victoria Kate via email at Victoriakate@bcha.org.uk or visit www.bcha.org.uk
If you suspect that you or someone you have come into contact with might be a victim of modern slavery and in need of help, please call The Salvation Army’s free, confidential referral helpline on 0800 808 3733, available 24/7.