The financial crisis cost me my job. I slept rough. Two men approached me. They offered me work near London. I shared an old dirty shed with a tin roof with another man. Every day we were picked up by a van at 7am and then knocked on people's doors asking if they wanted any work doing, digging patios or making drive-ways. We were picked-up at 9pm: if we didn't get back in time, we'd get beaten. Everyone was afraid. Some got beaten up often, punched in the head or kicked. We worked 6 days a week unpaid. Someone tried to escape, but was beaten with a spanner. One Sunday the police raided. I had never heard of trafficking before. When I looked around, I saw how ill everyone looked, skinny and unwell, as if we had all been in a concentration camp. For the first time in my life I am now being cared for, thanks to the Salvation Army. I am still nervous of going out alone.
We were struggling financially and were offered work on a Scottish farm. When we arrived we were given a room in a barn with insects and rats, one mattress on the ground for all of us, no loo. The rent was £700, but the money from working on the farm was insufficient. Our debt went on growing. To pay for it the traffickers obtained a bank loan for us, which they then controlled. Their plan was to claim and keep the state benefits which were due to our daughter. The farm owner was linked to a Polish network that regularly transported people to Britain. One day we managed to escape. The traffickers caught up with us. They tried to force us into their car and punched me in the face. The police were called. We were saved. We are now penniless, we don't speak English and we are worse off than ever before.
Being freed is only the first step towards the recovery of one's freedom...
Victims of human trafficking are often smuggled across borders, and deliberately sent far away from their family support base. Without the appropriate level of aftercare, it is incredibly difficult for them to rebuild their lives in these foreign environments.
Victims often suffer from many health issues as a direct consequence of having been trafficked. Victims of forced labour are prone to chronic physical illnesses and disabilities, whilst victims of sex labour are highly exposed to sexually transmitted diseases. It is often impossible for them to rebuild a sustainable livelihood without being offered the health care they require.
People who are trafficked also need support to recover from the serious emotional trauma that they have suffered. Traffickers are known to use psychological control tactics such as threats and lies in order to manipulate those under their control. Rebuilding confidence in those victims takes large periods of time and can require the support of expert psychiatrists.
In order to be able to reintegrate successfully in a community, victims of human trafficking need to be offered the opportunity to gain the basic work skills that will enable them to become independent, and to avoid being trafficked again.
THE RED LIGHT CAMPAIGN IMPACT FUND
The Red Light Campaign launched the Red Light Campaign Impact Fund in January 2014 with the specific intent of having a positive, pragmatic and immediate impact on the reintegration processes of people who have been and continue to be directly affected by human trafficking and modern-day slavery.
For this purpose, the Red Light Campaign has entered into a special relationship with the Human Trafficking Foundation. Headed by the UK Home Office's Special Envoy on Human Trafficking, Anthony Steen, it is currently referring survivors of trafficking to the Red Light Campaign to assess whether sponsorship under the Fund is possible.
The focus of the Red Light Campaign Impact Fund lies in pragmatic aftercare and the provision of goods or services to survivors of trafficking; tailoring the assistance provided so as to maximise the impact on each individual's particular circumstances. Examples of the assistance provided might include funding of language classes, skills-based courses, counselling sessions, access to the Internet, season travel tickets, computers or mobile phones.
The Fund is financed through profits raised by Red Light Campaign's own initiatives - the Cube Movement and House of Beth - as well as by independent donations. The Cube Movement is a social network against modern-day slavery, which creates global and traceable chains of communication between engaged individuals and communities. House of Beth is an ethical fashion business selling second hand designer clothes to support affected people and promoting awareness about slavery and ethics within the fashion industry through fashion films and events.
The people sponsored are currently exclusively referred by the Human Trafficking Foundation and are all UK-based. Yet other charities, individuals and organisations will in due course be encouraged to contact Red Light Campaign with queries about possible cooperations and sponsorship. As the Fund is in its initial stages of inception, the number of people being sponsored is temporarily limited, but is expected to grow as the Fund and Red Light Campaign's reach and activities continue to develop.
The Cube Movement is a new and innovative social network against human trafficking and modern-day slavery, building global online chains of communication between individuals and communities based on real world interactions.
The Cube Movement is designed to enable global chains of people to shed light on this issue by physically passing on unique informational cubes from person to person.
It all starts with a wooden cube, which individuals and companies can order from our website. Each of these cubes is equipped with information about modern-day slavery, survivor stories and a unique Cube Pin number. This number allows the user to log the location of that particular cube on our website. Once the cube is passed on to someone new, they'll also be able to log the location online, before passing the cube on themselves. The more people receive a cube, the more pins show up on our online map; powerfully illustrating the spreading global awareness of this issue. Income from Cube sales go to the Red Light Campaign Impact Fund.
The link between human trafficking and supply chains
The International Labour Organization estimates that of 20.9 million forced labourers, 68% are victims of forced labour exploitation in economic activities, such as agriculture, construction, domestic work or manufacturing. If the link between human trafficking and businesses doesn't seem obvious at first, it becomes flagrant when looking at the supply chains of big businesses. Increasingly, big corporations are becoming aware that somewhere along their complicated and often remote supply chains, they run the risk of being complicit in forced labour or child labour and might therefore be directly financing human trafficking. Governments, international organizations, civil society, and perhaps most importantly, businesses themselves, must do their best to raise awareness of these risks and disseminate best practices between corporations to combat forced labour in their supply chains.
For more information, the ILO published a handbook for businesses setting out how to combat forced labour whilst also presenting "background information, the latest statistics on forced labour and human trafficking, an overview of key issues, and resources for further reading".
See also the Free2Work rating, set up by the Not For Sale charity, that allows consumers to find out how their favourite brands relate to human trafficking and what, if anything, these brands are doing to eradicate modern-day slavery from their supply chains.
The Red Light Campaign has also created House of Beth, an online ethical fashion business selling pre-loved and ethical designer clothes, also facilitating sustainable fashion events to raise awareness of slavery.In the House of Beth team's own words: "We have raided the best dressed women's wardrobes and persuaded them to part with their designer and vintage items that they do not wear anymore (did you know we only wear 20% of our wardrobes?) for an amazing cause. From Sloane Square to West Hampstead, we offer up the best second-hand Designer, Vintage and High-End High-Street clothes in London. As all our clothes are in great condition and at a fraction of the cost you would have brought it first-hand, we are selling some serious bargains! We just love to recycle, revamp and rethink the way we use clothes. Fast fashion from the biggest retailers on the High Street often relies on such quick turn-arounds to keep up with new trends! This means that the certified factories that brands may claim to work with, are often forced to outsource their orders to other factories whose workforce suffer human rights abuses, from violence to slavery. If we shopped sustainably, at brand's that have a credible ethical trade department and at vintage and charity shops then it would force large retailers to re-consider their slavery inducing supply chains. All proceeds from our treasure trove goes to Red Light Campaign, an anti human-trafficking charity. We also supply trafficked survivors with clothes to help rebuild their lives and reshape their future."
If you wish to learn more about Human Trafficking or would like to fight it more actively, there simple steps you can take...
There are also are campaigns happening around the world that you can join or contribute to.
The United Nations Inter-Agency Project in Human Trafficking UNIAP
UNODC: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Human Trafficking; and the Blue Heart Campaign associated with it
UN GIFT Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking
ILO's Special Action Programme to Combat Forced Labour
The EU's Together Against Trafficking in Human Beings
Slavery Today, that publishes a Quarterly Journal of Human Trafficking Solutions
In the UKStop the Traffik! - A UK Charity Not for Sale Campaign