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39 victims - a response 


Across the world vulnerability is being exploited - with sometimes devastating consequences, writes Baptist minister and Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator Dan Pratt 

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We have been deeply saddened and shocked by the news this week of 39 people found dead in a lorry container in Grays, Essex. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of these people and all involved in the case.

The authorities are in the early stages of piecing together what happened. The victims have been identified as potential Chinese nationals. It is becoming increasingly clear that organised crime has been involved, putting the lives of victims at risk for financial gain. It is unclear as yet whether the people who have lost their lives are victims of trafficking or were involved in being smuggled into the country. It is however known that Chinese nationals have recently been trafficked to the UK.

Smuggling and trafficking are different. If a person is smuggled, they choose and request to be taken on the journey, even though it may be dangerous. Once they have paid for the journey and when they arrive at the destination they are free to go. Smuggling occurs across international borders.

In contrast, human trafficking forces or deceives an individual on a journey with false promises of payment or jobs. Trafficking involves recruiting, harbouring or transporting people for the purpose of exploitation. Individuals may be exploited along the journey as well as after the journey is complete. Trafficking uses threats, coercion and force to exploit. Trafficking can occur across international borders as well as within a country or even from one street to another.

Both people smuggling and human trafficking involve vulnerability. Poverty and war and other push factors force people to take risks, often putting their lives in the hands of people smugglers or traffickers, sometimes with fatal consequences. Baptist Minister, Juliet Kilpin is Coordinator for Peaceful Borders , which seeks to accompany and equip people responding to forced migration. In response to the death of the 39 people, Juliet writes,

‘Today there are 70.8 million forcibly displaced people fleeing conflict, poverty and climate change. We are a world on the move. It is inevitable that when people are desperate and looking for safety that they will take huge risks. But they shouldn’t have to. Because it is equally inevitable that there will be unscrupulous people taking advantage of that.

'And those of us here who have worked with refugees and asylum seekers, or victims of modern slavery know this all too well. I am angry that so many people with a legal right to claim asylum here are still being hindered from doing so quickly and safely. For most, until they get their feet on our shores they cannot ‘legally’ claim asylum, so they have no choice but to take risks with traffickers and smugglers.'

Together Free800To stop human trafficking, our communities have a responsibility to know how to spot the signs of Modern Slavery, how to identify potential victims and how to safeguard. It is known that victims/ survivors of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking go to faith communities and churches as they are a place of safety and refuge. We must learn how to identify potential victims of trafficking and to safeguard them. Together Free has been set up to resource churches in knowing how to do this. We seek to partner with churches and communities to work towards slavery-free communities.

In addition, in order to stem trafficking and people smuggling it is important that governments create border control and migration policies that are humane and that do not drive the vulnerable into the arms of people smugglers or traffickers.

If you would like to sign a petition for a campaign that Juliet is working on to help unaccompanied refugee children stuck in limbo in Europe to apply to join their families in the UK from elsewhere go to: http://safepassage.org.uk/get-involved/refugee-family-reunion-brexit/ 

Dan Pratt is the Eastern Baptist Association Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator who founded and leads Together Free, the Baptist movement seeking to work with local churches to end modern slavery and human trafficking

Image | lalesh aldarwish from Pexels

Baptist Times, 25/10/2019
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