[ACNS] The C of E is setting up a network of champions to work alongside police forces and statutory and non-statutory agencies to support victims of human trafficking. Last year more than 2,300 people were identified as victims of trafficking in the UK from more than 96 different countries. That figure is set to rise following the coming into force of the new Modern Slavery Act which creates new offences and sets out a number of measures to protect victims.
The new network of church champions was launched at a training event at Lambeth Palace last week.
“The key to tackling modern day slavery is through building partnerships and creating networks,” the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, said. Dr Redfern had previously said that modern slavery was “pretty endemic” across Derby and throughout England.
“That is the strength of the Church – our parish system looks outwards and provides a neutral, open space for people to come together to learn and be aware of this tragic issue that affects the most vulnerable people who are often hidden but are nevertheless members of the community,” Dr Redfern said. “We have to build networks of love, support and care for them that are long term and sustainable.”
On a previous occasion, the bishop explained that in one case in Derby, 27 men were found crammed into a two-up two-down house. Their passports had been confiscated by the traffickers and they were forced to do work for which they were not paid.
“There were signs that people could have noticed; but nobody did,” he said at the time. “There are people working on the land, in other areas, the building industry, car washes: people we just take for granted, where if we look carefully, then maybe the people we just think are foreign migrants are in fact people who came here looking for a better job, have been duped, and are trapped in some exploitative system. There is a lot of it about.”
The Lambeth Palace training day was attended by representatives from 30 C of E dioceses as well as representatives from Scottish Churches Anti Human Trafficking Group, the Roman Catholic Church and representatives from the Muslim and Jewish groups.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Brewer, head of the Metropolitan Police’s trafficking and kidnap unit, addressed the participants; as did local government officials. The participants also heard about pioneering work in the Truro and Derby dioceses on building partnerships to combat human trafficking.
The C of E is receiving awareness raising training from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which has been working with victims of trafficking for the past 20 years.
IOM’s UK head of mission, Dipti Pardeshi, welcomed the C of E’s initiative, saying “It is particularly important that the people who are likely to come into contact with victims of trafficking, such as religious leaders, are equipped with the knowledge and tools to spot the indicators of trafficking, identify potential victims, and feel confident in the best way to respond to them.”
The Revd Jane Vlach, Vicar of All Saints Church, Witley, in the diocese of Guildford, has helped to draw up resources for parish churches to use on Freedom Sunday - a global day of worship, prayer and action on human trafficking.
“It is incredibly encouraging when you have worked behind the scenes for a little while to see so many people motivated and inspired to go back and mobilise in their dioceses to address this appalling crime,” she said after the training day. “Trafficking moves from community to community and that is why it is so important for the faith groups to be there, looking for the signs that people have been trafficked and equipped to take action.”