In April of 2016 the people of Nottingham Diocese heard a pastoral letter from Bishop Patrick McKinney on the subject of Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. Bishop Patrick outlined his intention to run a programme of awareness raising/training events across the diocese on this issue, which is unfortunately one which is all too common across the counties of our diocese.
On Wednesday 28th September the diocese held the first of these events at the parish of St. Norbert’s and the Immaculate Conception in Spalding, Lincolnshire. 100 people attended from the surrounding areas, some coming as far as from Grimsby and Nottingham, to hear input from a range of speakers. Both Catholics and members of the Churches Together Network for the South Holland district were very engaged throughout the event and really enjoyed the evening, which was also attended by Bishop Patrick.
Following an introduction by John Creedon, Safeguarding Coordinator for the diocese, to set the scene in the context of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the specialist input from the speakers began with a presentation from Will Tharby of Lincolnshire Police. Will highlighted the fact that there are some 13,000 known victims of slavery in the UK currently, most of whom are Romanian, Polish or British. He outlined that the work of the Police in this area is in the areas of Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare. Once trafficked victims are identified and rescued the police are involved in their repatriation. Some victims cannot be repatriated and claim asylum here in the UK. Will highlighted that any suspicions should be reported to the police, and that members of the public should not approach potentially trafficked victims themselves. A discussion followed which, amongst other things, highlighted that common venues for traffickers to use in their crime are car wash outlets and nail bars, both of which are often used by trafficking gangs to launder money made in the cultivation of cannabis. The cannabis farms themselves are tended by trafficked victims.
Gill Spatcher, of the Medaiile Trust, talked about their work in providing 6 safe houses across the country for trafficked victims. She described the work of first responders referring potential victims via the National Referral Mechanism who, working alongside the Salvation Army, can have victims driven out of the area to a place of safety. Following an initial first response period of 5 days, the Medaille Trust have just 45 days in which to try to meet some of the physical and mental health needs of their clients. The Medaiile trust has international partnerships and shares valuable information given by victims with the police and the Gangmasters Licensing Authority. Gill went on to highlight that members of the public can get in touch with Medaille’s work by volunteering to give talks in parishes and schools and distributing the trust’s magazine as well as other general trafficking resources. The Medaiile Trust is the most long-standing of the charities involved in the support of trafficked victims and they offer support to newer charities setting up in this sector who all have their own unique role to play.
The last of the presentations was delivered by Margaret Shanahan, a Tribunal Judge in the Immigration and Asylum Chamber of the First Tier Tribunal, who hears the cases of victims of trafficking who are claiming asylum. She described how a decision that there are reasonable grounds to assume someone is a victim of trafficking has to be made in the initial 5-day period, and that after the 45 days a conclusive decision is taken as to whether or not the Home Office are satisfied that the person is indeed a victim of trafficking, based on all the evidence presented. Margaret went on to give emotional descriptions of specific cases of anonymous victims she had dealt with, and the often seemingly inhuman and inappropriate way that their evidence is dealt with by the Home Office, making the victim feel like the criminal and re-victimising them all over again.
The event was organised by the Nottingham Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission, in conjunction with the Adult Formation department and the Safeguarding Commission. The Justice and Peace Commission distributed a prayer card they had prepared, inviting us all to pray for the victims of trafficking, as well as for those who care for them. The prayer card also contains a handy list of common signs that someone has been trafficked which we can all look out for, and the National Helpline to call in cases of suspicion — 0800 0121700. The Justice and Peace Commission also distributed a take-home resource containing detailed facts and figures on trafficking, as well as information on the different types of trafficking, the specific signs of child trafficking, and how to spot a business or house which may be being used by trafficking gangs. Both the prayer card and booklet will be distributed at future events in the programme.
The next venue is at the church of The Blessed Sacrament, Braunstone, Leicester on Saturday 14th January 2017, with another planned for New Mills, High Peak in April. The Justice and Peace Commission will be bringing this event to various venues across the diocese by Autumn 2017. The hope is that by working safely and responsibly together in an informed way, all of us can be part of the efforts by professional bodies to bring an end to trafficking and to alleviate the suffering of those already affected by it. For more information about forthcoming events or to offer your parish as a future host venue please contact Louise Cooke, Fieldworker for the Justice and Peace Commission on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07410 411048
-Louise Cooke, Fieldworker
View photos of the event here.
More events to be held in the Nottingham, Derby and North Lincolnshire areas before Advent 2017.