Anti-Slavery Day was on October 18th, so to mark the day and raise awareness of modern slavery, we collaborated with local organisation, Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT) for a special event.
On October 16th, we combined discussion and poetry at Project B, giving individuals of all ages the opportunity to learn from each other and make their voices heard.
The conversation was started and led out by CCAT’s manager, Saima. She informed us that CCAT can be divided into five programmes of work:
- Intelligence gathering, which is “at the heart of CCAT”
- Educational work
- Community engagement
- Advocacy work.
Saima emphasised that CCAT really want communities to feel this is an issue they can respond to. CCAT member Peter said, “When we talk to a lot of people, they say, “Wow, I didn’t realise.” If we get people to think again or report, they feel they’ve done something.”
I asked the question, ‘What is your knowledge of modern slavery’, to get an idea of what those in attendance knew. Maria’s response was, “It’s forced labour. You’re not being paid, you’re held.” She also said that its different sectors, as there’s a lot of it in the restaurant sectors.
“Trafficking is the movement part of it, which gets to the end point, which is slavery,” Saima explained. “You can be trafficked from London to Birmingham. It doesn’t have to be international,” Peter told us.
Saima went on to tell us the different forms of modern slavery and trafficking, which include:
- Labour exploitation
- Sexual exploitation
- Domestic servitude, which is bringing people over for the purpose of working in the home
- Organ harvesting – “It’s a difficult one, because you might now survive that process.”
What I found especially harrowing and hard-hitting was Saima saying, “We’re interacting with slavery on a daily basis.”
Joan asked if there has been an increase in people coming forward for support, to which Saima responded that it is increasing – “There are definitely more people emerging as survivors, but then you get into the issue of the immigration system.” We learned that 40% of people are susceptible to being re-trafficked.
What was slightly shocking to learn was that the main nationality group of children being trafficked in the UK are UK children. However, we also learned that this is because of county lines and the drug trade, called county lines because it is crossing counties. It also turns out that Croydon has the highest number of children being trafficked across county lines.
“I heard young people talking about ‘going country’,” said Rachel, emphasising that county lines has been going on for a while, just under less formal terminology. “It’s because of the saturation in London, they can make more money [in other counties]”. Saima informed us that county lines is now a form of trafficking and a slavery offence.
A truly horrific statistic is that human trafficking is the third most profitable industry in the world. “I think it will become the most lucrative trade in the world, because it can happen over, and over, and over,” said Anna. Saima backed up this point by telling us that a lot of people who are trafficked into the UK have been trafficked multiple times.
Katherine posed the question of whether anyone is looking into root causes. Peter thinks it is poverty, the promise of a better life, and the opportunity to make a career in something you couldn’t do otherwise. Saima believes that there is “a sort of vulnerability that makes people more susceptible.”
Katherine also asked the question: “What is the main reason for people not reporting?” Saima said that the main reason is fear, which could be fear of many things, including fear of the traffickers or fear of entering a foreign legal system.
“The justice and legal system don’t respond to trafficking and slavery the way they should… Once you’re into that system, you have immigration to deal with… There isn’t that confidence for people to report,” Saima expressed. Toni also made a great point, saying that if you’ve been in that situation for a long period of time, you become institutionalised.
I asked the question, why is slavery still a thing? Lisa said poverty, while Liz said that there is a demand – some people want to buy cannabis, some people want to buy sex, so they see a need and supply that at whatever cost. “Most people who purchase weed probably don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Megan.
Saima believes that it is also caught up in how we talk about immigration in this country. Someone even said that some people in the modern slavery sector are essentially henchmen for the Home Office.
The final question I asked was, what can we do to prevent and combat modern slavery? Responses included:
- “Look at the places I’m going to, like places to get my nails done.” – Liz
- “I think what CCAT’s doing, going into schools, is important… It’s education and informing young people.” – Bethan
- “Making it a talking point with your friends and family… Having awareness and keeping your eyes open.” – Lisa
“Coming to this has made me realise I need to listen to my instincts a lot more… Knowing that this organisation exists is really brilliant,” said Lisa H.
Following the discussion element of the event, we then moved on to poetry. Liz, Roy and myself shared poems on the subject of trafficking and modern slavery, which was incredibly powerful, thought-provoking and a great way to round off the night.
Let’s keep the conversations going and keep our eyes open, as there is no way that slavery should still be taking place in our society and communities. Together, we can work to prevent it.
Stay updated with the great work CCAT are doing by visiting their website, which also has information of how you can spot the signs of modern slavery. If you’d like to support their work, please email Saima at firstname.lastname@example.org