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‘Slavery is as close as your phone’

by Gavin Drake

Posted: 14 Nov 2014 @ 12:23

REUTERS

Click to enlarge

Appealing for help: sub-Saharan African migrants on board a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean

Credit: REUTERS

Appealing for help: sub-Saharan African migrants on board a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean

SLAVERY is probably as close to you as the mobile phone in your pocket, the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, said this week.

 Speaking after an international Anglican consultation on modern slavery in Rome, Dr Redfern explained that "a great proportion of the electronic devices we all use and devour come from systems where slave labour is endemic in the chains that produce them. So it is probably close to the heart - literally - of most of us. I carry my phone in my top pocket."

Dr Redfern described slavery as "an international endemic crime that is increasing". He said that, without a joined-up response, the "hidden crime" would be "really hard to tackle".

About 20 Anglican specialists from El Salvador, Brazil, the United States, southern Africa, Burundi, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, and the UK took part in the consultation last week; under the chairmanship of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Representative to the Holy See, the Most Revd Sir David Moxon.

Dr Redfern said that the financial downturn had led to "a growth in the informal economy" involving "gangs that are recruited for a day, they are bused somewhere; they work; they go home".

In one case, in Derby, 27 men were crammed into a two-up two-down house, and their passports were confiscated by the traffickers. "There were signs that people could have noticed; but nobody did. . .

"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."

He called for "a partnership between countries where trafficked people come from, and those of us who benefit from traffickers and trafficked people being enslaved in our midst and providing cheap goods and services". He said that churches could help to "put the victims at the centre" of attempts to tackle slavery.

A former child-slave in Ghana, James Kofi Annan, took part in last week's consultation. He was one of seven boys who were sold to traffickers for $20 at the age of six. Only three survived.

They were seen as expendable by their masters: they were forced to dive at great risk into the deep waters of Lake Volta to free trapped fishing nets. The nets cost $200.

After seven years in captivity, Mr Annan escaped. He now runs the organisation Challenging Heights, which works to rescue and educate children sold into slavery.

One unnamed speaker told the story of a woman who had been arrested 166 times for prostitution. "Only on the 167th time did the judge ask her if she chose to engage in prostitution. We need lawyers and judges who know how to ask the right questions to uncover human trafficking."

"It is truly shocking to hear the accounts of men, women, and children who have been trafficked and enslaved," the co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance, the Revd Rachel Carnegie, said.

"This consultation has enabled us to learn together . . . to shape a stronger collective response to end this crime against humanity."

www.gfn2020.org

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