Thursday, 24 May 2012

Human trafficking in Wales: The hidden story

by Jenny Sims

A report on the WCIA's recent event at the Novotel, Cardiff. Jenny is a freelance journalist, editor and media consultant. Her blog is at

It’s on our doorsteps, in our streets, local shops, restaurants, factories, nail bars and saunas. It’s not just in big towns and cities but quiet villages and remote rural areas.

The “slave trade” of trafficked and abused children and adults for work and sex is everywhere.  But don’t think “Mr Nasty” is always the perpetrator of the crime, it’s often Mr or Mrs “Normal” selling and enslaving victims for profit, according to the experts.

So accept it. “Wake up” and “speak up”. Tell someone if you suspect a child is being abused, a woman is being forced to into sex work against her will, or a man into slave labour. The signs are often there but we ignore them.

Share your suspicions and tell someone in authority, the police, health services, teachers or charities. It’s the first step in helping victims escape, and enabling authorities bring the traffickers to justice.

These were the key messages from leading campaigners at a meeting organised by the Welsh Centre for International Affairs. Such was the interest from charities, social services and other organisations that the organisers had to switch venues – to a bigger Cardiff hotel!

On the night nearly 200 people packed a Novotel conference room to hear from leading figures in the field. The statistics are shocking: trafficking is a £32billion industry worldwide – and growing rapidly.

Pioneering policies inWales puts it “second only toLondon” in the way it’s helping victims and prosecuting traffickers, according to Robert Toobey, Anti Human Trafficking Co-ordinator for Wales, employed by Gwent Police.

Even so, the number of prosecutions is still very small. The number of victims is unknown. And not only members of the public but even some people in local authorities deny it exists in their area.

Mr Toobey, former head of Cardiff CID, whose team took on the first successful human trafficking case inWales, warns: “Anyone who thinks it isn’t happening inWales– think again.”
A wide range of solutions is being offered by organisations such as, Safer Wales, BAWSO and the International Justice Mission.

But the urgent task is to “destroy the climate of disbelief and denial”, says Joyce Watson, AM for Mid & West Wales, whose Cross-Party report on trafficking was published in 2010.*

Someone during the evening suggested that we tell three people about trafficking and ask them to tell three people.  Good idea. I’m passing it on…

*Knowing no boundaries – Local Solutions to an International Crime.

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