Today on July 30th, the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, the Sophie Hayes team pauses to acknowledge survivors of human trafficking worldwide, as well as their families and loved ones.
Human trafficking is an unquestionable breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It happens the world over – no region is immune. According to the UN, there are at least 152 countries of origin and 124 countries of destination affected by trafficking in persons (1).
Such figures are undeniably daunting.
Most people wouldn’t blink an eye to hear that countries such as Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria and China are on the list of the top seven most common countries of origin for potential survivors of trafficking. (2)
But most people would be surprised, and no doubt disturbed, to learn that the UK is also on that top seven list.
Enter Sophie Hayes, a British woman who in her 20s was trafficked to Italy from the UK and through emotional and physical abuse was forced into prostitution. She managed to escape after several months.
In her book, ‘Trafficked’, which can be purchased on Amazon, Sophie tells her incredible story and reminds us that this issue is much closer to home than most would ever suspect. It is because of her drawing awareness to this issue that the Sophie Hayes Foundation now exists, and empowers others like her to build hope-filled futures.
As an Australian national, it is also sobering to read that there were 119 new referrals to the Australian Federal Police in 2014-2015 for human trafficking, slavery and slavery-like offences, yet there were no convictions during this period (3).
The first step to being able to eradicate this crime is to understand that it is a global issue, but we all have the power to instigate change where we are.
You may be asking yourself, ‘what can I do?’ The good news is that working together really does make a difference. Earlier this month, the Guardian reported that the Shiva Hotels group will launch an anti-slavery programme for its staff, to train them to spot signs of possible trafficking and effectively take action to help. This is the kind of practical step that we hope will catch on with similar groups. Perhaps you are in a position to initiate something similar in your own workplace?
You may not be working in the hospitality industry or in law enforcement – but you can still help to turn the tide.
A quote attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor who was active in the German resistance to the Nazi regime, reads: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil… not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
So at Sophie Hayes, we invite you to talk. Talk to your friends and family and tell them that trafficking happens everywhere. Point them to Sophie’s book to demonstrate that this is not a distant, vague problem but one that could be occurring right on your doorstep.
Be vigilant by reporting any suspicious behavior. You can find examples here.
Consider getting involved with the work of Sophie Hayes – or of one of many other anti-trafficking organisations! Be part of a global movement for change!
And finally, share this blog post and help us spread the word.
By Emily Banger and Camilla Olim