C of E 'must raise awareness of trafficking'

13 November 2015

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THE Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, has said that the Church of England must “end the demand” for modern slavery by using its network of communities to raise awareness.

Speaking at a training event on the prevention of human trafficking — covering forced labour, crime, and prostitution — at Lambeth Palace on Tuesday, Dr Redfern said that the Church must share its “absolutely essential” resources by forming partnerships with local authorities, the police, and social services.

“Victims are so traumatised and lost in the sense of what it is to be human, to respect themselves, that they need exactly what people of faith bring,” he said. “That is, a commitment to the person, whoever they are, and on their own terms.”

Last year, more than 2300 people were identified as victims of trafficking in the UK, from more than 96 different countries.

Statutory bodies, Dr Redfern said, all have a part to play that is “formal, and within a legal framework”, but are “not trained to love people” like the Church. “The police and others need us, because unless people are loved back into life, they are no good as witnesses. You won’t stop the crimes, because you won’t have evidence for prosecution.”

More than 60 people attended the event, including clergy, volunteers, and parishioners, to listen to lectures on what can be done, and is being done, to end human trafficking in the UK.

The head of the Metropolitan Police Trafficking and Kidnap Unit, DCI Phil Brewer, said that only by working together could the problem be tackled. The unit of 80 members operates a 24/7 response, internationally, for anyone who is in a “threat to life” situation.

The Met is in partnership with the Church and charities, and will work with any organisation that is dealing with a possible victim of trafficking. DCI Brewer said that, although a few had conflicts of interest, such as religious groups whose doctrine condemned prostitution, each one could make an “important difference” to victim outcomes.

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One of the partners is the Roman Catholic charity Rahab (named after a prostitute in the Bible who was praised for her faith), which helps victims of sex trafficking and women affected by prostitution. Rahab was formed in 2009 by the Adoratrices, an RC charitable order originally established in Spain in 1859, to house women who had been sexually exploited.

As part of the global campaign movement Stop the Traffik, and in partnership with the Met and the Government, through its initiative Violence against Women and Girls, the charity has rescued 596 women of 41 nationalities, aged from 18 to 36, in the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, and Hammersmith and Fulham.

The campaign against human trafficking received a boost after the passing of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 by the Government, in March. The legislation states that “slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour and . . . human trafficking” is to be actively prevented and the victims protected.

Last week, new legislation was put forward that requires organisations to publish an “annual slavery and human-trafficking statement” for the financial year ending on or after 31 March 2016.

Dr Redfern, who speaks for the bishops in the House of Lords on human trafficking, concluded that the 45 days of support offered by the Government for victims of trafficking was “not long enough”, and that “long-term sustainable solutions of love and care” were needed to end modern slavery.

“This is a messy world,” he said. “People of faith must put aside pride and judgement, and have a more pragmatic approach to helping others.”

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