Getting Equipped to Stop The Traffik …

On the 30th June 2012 the lovely Sabine and I went to the Oasis Centre in London for a training day from ‘Stop the Traffik’ ahead of us volunteering for the ‘Gift Box’ Campaign which I will share more about soon.   I just wanted to share with you all a few lessons I learned, and how you too can get equipped in the fight against Human Trafficking.

Stop The Traffik are an amazing charity that have been going in the UK since 2007.  Read their story here  Visit their website and sign up to their blog using the links on the right on this page.

I was full of anticipation heading to this training because as massive as my heart is to stop trafficking, I know that in order to make my contribution I need to be resourced, equipped and empowered.  And thankfully that what Stop The Traffik do.

We learnt about some of the tactics that traffickers use to deceive people into being trafficked.  I think we can have this naive view that trafficking is only about prostitution, or that people must be stolen like in ‘Taken’ or just be stupid.  Sadly in reality there is often very clever deception that takes place.  For example a job advert for a well know building company to work in Spain, with training provided- when in reality an 18 year old from Russia ended up locked into a building site with no safety equipment, no money, and had to eventually walk to Germany to escape.  Or an advert for a summer job abroad with a family business selling ice cream in Europe- to which a girl in Latvia applied, took a plane to Heathrow, met someone in Costa Coffee, had her documents taken, and was then sold in that Costa for £4,000 to work in a brothel in the North of England.

These aren’t just stories.  These are realities!!

Human trafficking is to be deceived or taken against your will, bought or sold and transport into exploitation; whether forced labour or sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, forced begging or for the removal of organs.

1.2 million children are trafficked every year — Estimate by UNICEF

There are even reports that some trafficking groups are switching their cargo from drugs to human beings, in a search  of high profits at lower risk — The UN Office on Drugs and Crime

Approx 4 x the profit can be made from a person than drugs.  The person can be willingly brought into the country whereas drugs would be illegally hidden.  A person can be re-used again and again.

Trafficking affects every continent and every country; whether it’s an origin country where people are trafficked from; a transit country where people are trafficked through; or a destination country where people are trafficked to. 

On average, one person is is trafficked within and between countries every 30 seconds

Stop the Traffik recognised the fact that the Olympics provided a unique opportunity to reach a huge number of people from all over the world with the truth about human trafficking.  There was some speculation that trafficking could increase during the Olympics, but the reality is it happens every day! Our aim was to raise awareness and also do research about trafficking during this time, whilst the world was in and around London.  They recognised that power doesn’t just come in sharing a statistic, but engaging in conversation, and empowering people to make a change themselves.

Stop the Traffik and the Police…

As part of our training we were privileged to be spoken to by one of the Inspectors for ‘SCD9’ a special unit of the Met Police who are focusing on trafficking, and have a great relationship with ‘Stop the Traffik’.  He told us that they have 35 trained detectives, and , police trained on human trafficking, which is amazing!  There are no boundaries to trafficking and therefore it can happen anywhere.  Citizens really need to be able to notice the signs and report their suspicions.  How this information is reported has been developed.

You can report any suspicions you have on the Stop the Traffik website ‘Report Incident‘ tab.

Or call the Police Trafficking Helpline: 08007832589  For advice/ info: UK Human Trafficking Centre 08447782406.  For victim support: The Salvation Army 03003038151

Trafficked people often lack movement, language, documents and information on their area.  therefore the police are being trained to ask the right questions, eg where is your passport? When did you last leave your house?  It is so important for the police to see them as victims not suspects, and massive progression has happened in this area.  Victims are now often sent to victim centres rather than police stations, and are given 45 for their case to be studied rather than an immediate deportation.

1 trafficker in England made £2.2 Million from 1 Croatian person.

A trafficker in London made £40,000 from 1 sex trafficked victim in one year.

There are currently 46 live cases being investigated.  It is an appealing crime that must be stopped.

It has been important for people to know the difference between trafficking and smuggling.  Or from a person trafficked into sexual servitude, and someone working as a prostitute.  Victims of human trafficking don’t “self identify”- they often don’t realise that they have been ‘Trafficked’ therefore it is up to us and the police and NGO’s to help them.  They are often given a ‘legend’ or intricate back story, and told to abscond to a certain place.  All kinds of threats and tactics are used.

However, there has been break-though and convictions.  Recently a trafficker received 20 years for trafficking 2 Nigerian women.  And the case of the ‘Romanian Cinderella‘ received 40 years total convictions

ACT Groups:

Stop the Traffik have 50 ‘Act Groups’ (Active Communities against Trafficking) nationally.  These groups educate people on trafficking and campaign.

‘Human Trafficking’ The Movie:

When Sabine and I got home, after being equipped and excited about the difference we can make, we decided to watch ‘Human Trafficking‘ (2005).  I would say if you haven’t watch it please do!!  Although fictional, it covers really well 3 different types of human trafficking that can take place.  I couldn’t believe that what was a prominent enough issue to be made into a film in 2005, could be something that I, and the world are only just opening up their eyes to!

“We must face the fact that none of this horror would be possible, if our culture didn’t create a demand for it.  We need to realise that modern day slavery is only occurring because we choose to ignore it”  

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

 – William Wilberforce

Think about how you can get equipped and empowered to fight trafficking yourself…

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‘Forever Family’s’ and Finding a Place Called Home.

On Thursday the 28th June, I ventured into London because I was really keen to get to an event.   I went to a Fostering and Adoption consultation that was put on by Krish Kandiah from the Evangelical Alliance (http://www.eauk.org/  @eauknews  @krishk) and Care For the Family     (http://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/ @care4thefamily)

It was a really great informative and inspiring evening.  It was so encouraging to hear what the Church is doing in this area, and the plans to do more.  It was also brilliant to see a room full of Christians who are fostering, have adopted, or who are in the process.  It was great to learn from each other, share with each other and encourage each other.

Now I know this is a very sensitive and personal subject.  However as someone who had a really great experience of being fostered by an incredible Christian family, I feel I am in a privileged position to encourage others and share the benefits, and how it can be done so well!  But as someone who has also seen a number of times how it has not gone so well, including a short placement in emergency care which was wasn’t pleasant, and what happens when difficulties overcome potential, I also feel I know a little about how it shouldn’t be done, and what some of the obstacles are.

I was Fostered when I was 15.  My foster family in lifestyle, happiness, choices, beliefs etc could not have been more different than what I knew.  It took a long time for me to start looking after myself.  My foster family showered us with grace, love, and affirmation (I had a terrible self-image, and deep set apathy and almost hatred for life).  It took a long time to stop swearing, acting in a self-destructive way, and to accept their ways of living, and that we could be a family.

When I turned 16, the thing that showed me in the most definitive way that we were now family, is that after only a few months, my foster parents wanted me to continue to stay at home (I was offered sheltered accommodation etc), and wanted me to regain my youth.  They supported me throughout 6th form.  We went on holidays, we spent time together just playing games or watching TV.  My mum taught me how to really care for myself and love myself.  Somehow over time, we became very much a family.  My family’s decision to care for us, and step out in that way, literally radically transformed my life, my prospects and my hope and future.

 

There are 59,000 Children currently in the care system in the UK.  Currently BAAF (British Association for Adoption and Fostering- (http://www.baaf.org.uk/) state that 6,200 children need adopting in the UK.  The Fostering Network (http://www.fostering.net/) state that 8,000 children currently need foster placements.

The Evangelical Alliance alone is in contact with 15,000 Churches.

The maths is simple.  If just one family in each if these Churches, supported by the Church as a whole took on the mission to Foster or Adopt, then the need for the whole of the UK could be covered by the Church!!

Fostering and Adoption shows with words and actions the impact God has had on our lives.  Our compassion (to co-suffer, be moved into action with empathy) on such vulnerable children (70% of whom have been abused or neglected), shows the love of Jesus in the most practical way.

I have a huge heart for Children, and can’t wait to show mine (whether fostered adopted or natural) Jesus and real love as my family did for me.  I am very passionate that anyone on Church if capable, whether they have their own Children or not, should make room in their lives for those children who need families.  I believe that it is a Biblical principle, and one of the best ways possible, to show in a practical, every day way the love of God, and to literally be able to transform someone’s life.

Krish asked us to imagine the impact on the Church if at least on family per church were looking after children.  Imagine the impact on our often “Middle Class” Churches.  Imagine children in Sunday School who would never otherwise be exposed the gospel.  Imagine the topics at weekly prayer meetings which would include all the complexities of the children’s and their natural family’s lives.  Imagine the Churches praying for the poor, not just overseas, but those in their own families and extended families.

Imagine the impact on our nation.  If the Church were not seen as homophobic, hateful, bigots, or crazy ‘Bible Bashers’.  But as those who literally open up their homes and their lives to some of the most vulnerable in our nation.  Wouldn’t this help not only the children, but our communities to see who God really is?

Ps 68:5-6 says:

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows,
Is God in His holy habitation.
God sets the lonely in families;
He brings out those who are bound into prosperity;
But the rebellious dwell in a dry land.

Wouldn’t it be great if this is what the Church and our God was known for?  Being the defender of the poor and the protector of orphans and widows?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not in any way suggesting that every Christian should foster and adopt.  As I have said I have seen many cases, including with Christians, where the complexities of their life, their circumstances, character or callings have meant that it would not be suitable for them.  And this kind of parenting is ‘Extreme Parenting’ that includes a great number of difficulties as well as rewards.

I realise there are hindrances to people fostering or adopting, but in my experience, even within the Church this is often out of a lack of understanding, and a feeling that it is only something particular types of people are ‘called to’ not God loving, every day loving families.  I do believe that everyone in Church has a role to play in supporting the families who do this wonderful thing.  I think that there needs to be an education and new perspective within the Church that this is not only an answer to the problem of infertility (which of course it can be) but also a mission field.

Unfortunately I haven’t always seen that.  I haven’t always seen the Church supporting those who already Foster and Adopt, who have ‘difficult children’.  Nor have I always seen the Church ‘promoting’ Adoption or Fostering, as there can be much misunderstanding on what it entails, and often a desire to see healing or natural conception when infertility is the issue.

So many non-Christian families do an amazing job of Fostering and Adopting, and seeing broken children grow and be restored.  But imagine how much more Christians can do; with God, with the Holy Spirit guiding and protecting, and with the network of help and support from others in the Church.  This is what Church should look like.

As Krish said in his article:

“Collectively we can begin to discover how we can instil a mindset change in our families and churches to open our arms and hearts to the children who need temporary and permanent homes where they can be accepted and loved unconditionally.”

http://www.fiec.org.uk/news/article/finding-a-place-called-home

One reason I am passionate about Christian’s Fostering and Adopting, is that is one of the best possible ways to evangelise- how better to show a child or others that God loves them, than by showing them that you love them, in a real, every day, sacrificial way?

Another reason is that fulfils a God given mission to protect the defenceless.  One issue I have become increasingly passionate about as I learn more and more about the issues of modern day slavery (which I will share more about) is how vulnerable to children in the care system are to abuse or sex trafficking.  This makes my heart so sad.

‘Police figures show an estimated 10,000 children go missing from care every year’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-18675986

“Under the current system you can have a situation where a sexual predator is sitting in a car outside a children’s home targeting the children inside that home, a home that the police don’t even know exists,”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-18425293

“One of the victims living in a privately run residential home was abused by 25 men in one night.”

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01j6t1t

U.S:

“Yesterday’s report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner makes for difficult reading. It highlights the risks of sexual exploitation faced by a “disproportionate” number of children in care.”

“As one tearful girl who called ChildLine said, “I just want a family. I just want to be loved”. Surely that’s not too much to ask.”

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/tom-rahilly/we-must-do-more-to-protec_b_1645438.html

I am not saying that Christian’s are perfect, or always get things right.  And I don’t believe that they always have the ‘perfect family’.  But I find it hard to believe that within the loving context of a Christian family, surrounded by the support of the Church, that foster children would go missing, suffer from abuse or be as particularly at risk.  I believe that the Church; that Christian’s old or young, single or married, with or without their own children can be the solution to this problem.

I hope that this has been in some way encouraging or informative.  Please feel free to comment as I know this is a very complex subject, with many levels, and some challenges I haven’t covered here.

Another way that Children overseas can be protected from predators or trafficking is by the protection of education or sponsorship where they attend classes and are monitored.

Vision Rescue http://www.visionrescue.org.in/ do an amazing work protecting and educating children in India.

Stop the Traffik http://www.stopthetraffik.org/ and other anti-trafficking organisations I will talk more about do some great educational work for children.

And of course sponsoring a child through Compassion UK http://www.compassionuk.org/ can be another way to not only help a child receive food, education and spiritual development, but protect them further from trafficking.