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Friday July 30 is World Day Against Trafficking in Persons and to mark the occasion some hard-hitting artwork to raise awareness has gone on display in Southend.
The SAMS (Southend Against Modern Slavery) partnership, Project 49 and artist Nik Vaughn worked together on the artwork and posters to raise awareness and highlight the issue of human trafficking and modern slavery.
The artwork is on display in Southend Central and the posters are on display at Southend Victoria train station. The paintings highlight how exploitation can occur in relation to debt bondage, forced labour, sexual and criminal exploitation and domestic servitude.
A person is ‘trafficked’ if they are brought to, or moved around, a country by others and forced into a life of labour or sexual exploitation. Organised Crime Groups will often target those they consider vulnerable. It is a serious crime and affects people of all ages, gender and race. Victims are rarely seen or heard and are unable to escape.
The day will also see the council and partners share important messages and videos across social media about how you can help spot the signs which are often hidden, which makes it very hard to see victims around us. Signs of exploitation include those who are coerced, controlled, abused, isolated, in debt, malnourished, dehumanised, restricted, anxious or dependent.
Cllr Martin Terry, cabinet member for public protection, said: “People trafficking and modern slavery is a global problem but we want to do all we can in Southend to highlight the issue and stop it happening in our town. If people know what modern slavery is and what exploitation looks like, what the signs are, then it is easier for people to report it.
“Often those trapped in these situations are the least able to raise the alarm, so we need our community to be vigilant and report any concerns they may have.”
The council works in collaboration with organisations such as SAMS and Essex Police to raise awareness and work towards a slavery-free Southend.
Inspector Paul Hogben of Essex Police, said: “People trafficking can take many forms including women and children being moved from one place to another for the purposes of prostitution, people being moved around by Organised Crime Groups to tend to cannabis cultivations, children being moved around the country to deal drugs for County Lines, and people being moved around and forced to complete manual labour.
“These vulnerable people are often forced to live in horrendous conditions and routinely subject to threats and violence.
“As awareness spreads, we are seeing increasing reports of people trafficking. There are a number of Government agencies and charities who can support victims and prosecute offenders.
“Victims are often unable or too scared to report this incredibly impactive crime, so we rely heavily on people seeing the signs and reporting suspected trafficking and Modern Slavery.”
The council has also signed up to a zero-tolerance approach to modern-day slavery, as outlined in its modern slavery statement 2021-22
As part of this statement, Southend-on-Sea Borough council commits to:
Deliver a programme of training and awareness raising for the workforce, partner agencies and third sector organisations
Promoting national campaigns to help raise awareness of modern slavery and human trafficking.
Reviewing, and refreshing where applicable, the adult safeguarding referral pathway to better identify and support potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
Enhance data and intelligence gathering across partners to help identity and support potential victims, as well as inform disruption activities.
To find out more about the subject and what you can do to help, visit www.samspartnership.org.uk
If you believe you have information about someone being a victim of trafficking or modern slavery you can report it to Police on 101 or 999 in emergencies, online at www.essex.police.uk or through the modern slavery helpline on 08000 121 700.