Human trafficking is the perfect business: stealing another’s economic capacity by violence. Human trafficking is slavery, and it is at its worst levels ever in our world today. Last month, the largest-ever modern slavery ring in the UK was uncovered. Hundreds of Polish men worked for as little as 50p a day. They were homeless, ex-prisoners and alcoholics. More needs to be done to tackle this crime and help its victims.
Such survivors are part of our Church family at St Chrysostom’s. They attend our English classes. They chat and socialise with our team of volunteers. They get out into the countryside on our Saturday Walks. (Some of them are too frightened to go out unaccompanied.) Through this summer, they are in Manchester’s Whitworth Gallery, at practical art classes. Our volunteering is with the Medaille Trust’s safe confidential houses and we’ve been doing this for four years. We’ve supported about four hundred men.
Where are the women survivors of trafficking? In other safe Medaille houses, elsewhere. As Mary Robinson, ex-United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, commented, visiting these Manchester men last month: “You don’t hear about trafficked men”.
What brings our volunteers through the Church door? Empathy. Faith. Duty. That’s the first step. However, the torture and PTSD experiences of the men are so enormous that here’s the ruling principle: making things normal.
There’s a new arrival. Probably without a phrase in English. His front teeth and his glasses may have been smashed. He’s been found by a police raid on a car wash, a meat factory, a vegetable field, a cannabis factory. With no belongings, he’s been driven across the UK, away from his gangmasters (hopefully). He’s given his first police interview, for evidence to convict these traffickers. He’s started on counselling – all in the safe house. What is Manchester to him? He could be here for eight months, or longer.
We sit him down with a “play box” of fake UK notes and coins. It’s comical. Can he count? What English words does he have? (He may have left education at twelve.) Our classes are always practical: shopping, café, going to the doctor, asking directions, Job Centre interviews. Then it’s off with us to the countryside, for a walk and a picnic. “Mike”, who’s just moved to his new life, said: “I didn’t want to come to Manchester. I’m glad I did.”
At St Chrysostom’s our wonderful volunteers support survivors of human trafficking, through English Classes, Walks and Art Classes. Will you volunteer to help at St Chrysostom’s? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
This is the latest in our #soapbox series, honouring the spirit of #Peterloo and calling for change.