Human trafficking: 'We can all do something to fight for freedom'
How one organisation is helping the victims of modern-day slavery and making a stand against the growing trade in men, women and children ...
How one organisation is helping the victims of modern-day slavery and making a stand against the growing trade in men, women and children. CLAIRE MUSTERS reports
It is a horrific fact that there are more slaves in the world today than there have ever been.
But did you know that the average age of trafficking victims is 12? And that trafficking is absolutely rife in Europe – with the UK being Europe’s largest market for trafficking?
This is the world’s fastest-growing criminal industry, second only to the drugs trade as, sadly, human beings can be bought and sold over and over again.
Indeed, in the time it has taken you to read this far, someone new will have been forced into modern-day slavery.
Such statistics are mind-blowing, especially when the reality affects every nation across the globe.
While you and I may feel overwhelmed, wondering what on earth we can do to make a difference, some individuals have founded anti-trafficking organisations in order to fight these very statistics, one case at a time.
One such couple is Christine and Nick Caine, who founded The A21 Campaign back in 2008. Hailing from Australia, the couple are part of Hillsong Church and also direct Equip and Empower Ministries, which seeks to empower local churches, leaders and organisations.
As part of Christ’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) they believe it is the Church’s responsibility to rise up to help those who are suffering as well as stand up for justice. Out of this belief came The A21 Campaign.
As Christine says: “Instead of getting overwhelmed by the statistics, it’s important to know that we may not be able to do everything, but we can all do something to fight for freedom!
“Even if we rescued only one girl, it was worth it. Every one matters.”
A21 exists ‘to abolish injustice in the 21st century’ and the growing network of volunteers works tirelessly to prevent trafficking. They do this through raising awareness and educating possible victims (and suppliers) of trafficking (for sexual exploitation and forced labour purposes).
They have teams rescuing people from slavery and are able to offer victims shelters, transition homes and legal advice and representation. They also seek to equip them with skills that will empower them for their future and assist them in taking the next step when they are ready to leave A21 care.
The organisation believes in prosecuting traffickers so works closely with local law enforcement to strengthen the legal response to trafficking.
Currently there are A21 volunteers working on the ground in the Ukraine, Greece (known as ‘the centre of trafficking in Europe’) and Bulgaria, and administration offices in the United States, the UK and Australia.
The reason they are working so hard in Europe? As the A21 website says: “We noticed a lack of resources, restorative care and legal representation for victims in Europe.”
The growth of this industry in the last 20 years is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. The statistics make for heartbreaking reading:
• More than 25% of worldwide sex trafficked victims are brought in from Southern and Eastern Europe
• 90% of victims trafficked into the European Union member states end up in the sex trade
• Only 1-2% of victims are currently rescued, and only one in 100,000 Europeans involved in trafficking is convicted
Here is one girl’s story:
“When I was 13 my family sold me to a 40-year-old Romanian man who raped me continually. I eventually fell pregnant and had a baby girl. The man took my baby and abandoned me in Athens.
“Five Middle Eastern men approached me and asked why I was crying. They told me they would take care of me and keep me safe. I had nowhere else to go, so I went with them. Nothing happened that first night.
“The next day, the men paid 23 Euros for my train ticket, taking me to a town seven hours away. They locked me in an apartment and raped and beat me over and over again. They brought many different men to me and forced me to have sex with them. They made me cook and clean, and would beat me if it wasn’t good enough.
“Finally, one of the neighbours called the police. I was being raped by a ‘client’ when the police raided, rescued me and took me to The A21 Campaign shelter. I was 14 years old.”
• If you would like to find out more about getting involved with The A21 Campaign please visit: www.thea21campaign.org
Photo: above right: A21 supporters protest in Barking, East London, about the plight of trafficking victims