Dame Anne Begg MP attended one of the most dramatic and distressing exhibitions ever promoted in the House of Commons highlighting the hidden nature of Modern Day Slavery.
The exhibition, built by students from the Central St Martin’s College of Art, depicts the four different kinds of slavery hidden away in our society. Curtains, doors, drawers and tea chests concealed the stories and photographs of survivors.
The survivors who shared their stories with the Human Trafficking Foundation to create the exhibition attended the opening. Among them was Cristina, a Romanian girl sold by her mother into prostitution in Birmingham when she was 16 and who narrowly escaped being snatched from her local authority care home by her traffickers. There was also a man, duped by a job advertised in Hungary, and on arrival here forced to work without pay, compelled to open a credit card account operated by his slave master, forced to claim benefits for non-existent children.
No one knows the real numbers involved. Yet, the Serious Organized Crime Agency knows that at least 2,000 victims are found each year. However, they believe that is the tip of the iceberg and that for every victim found, another ten remain hidden. The Human Trafficking Foundation concludes there must be up to 20,000 slaves in the cities, towns and villages of the UK.
Of these victims that have come to light, 6% are known to have come from Scotland.
MP for Aberdeen South, Dame Anne said “Due to recent local press coverage on this issue this week, we are all aware that there are deeply traumatised people who have been trafficked to the UK and abused living in Aberdeen.
“That’s why I recently held an event on International Women’s Day to raise awareness of human trafficking and I want to ensure that everyone in Aberdeen is more alert to the signs of modern day slavery. I hope students in schools, public service workers, the police, as well as those in private business will join me in this task.
“In parliament, I have already tabled a question to the Minister asking that frontline staff are fully trained to recognise the signs of human trafficking. I want to see modern day slavery put at the top of the political agenda.”
Anthony Steen, Chairman of the Human Trafficking Foundation said: “What is amazing is that trafficked children, unlike adults, are offered no special care in spite of what they have been through. They have no safe haven since in local authority care hundreds of trafficked children go missing each year.