Day three of our Slovenia conference was jam-packed with fascinating information! We heard a lot about victims’ experiences and the value of working in partnerships to ensure that victims’ needs are met and traffickers are convicted.
No matter how many times you hear stories of exploitation, the details never fail to shock. Today we heard of older men being forced to work 10 hour days on a construction site with only bread and butter for lunch, of young women sold for sex by their families and beaten if they didn’t bring in enough money on an evening and – a first for many in the room – of lorry drivers forced to live in containers or in their lorries and kept enslaved under fear of debt bondage.
Police delegates were highly aware of the complex and immediate needs of vulnerable victims: “Tackling human trafficking isn’t your ‘normal’ type of policing – usually you just knock the door in, arrest people and everyone hates you. With trafficking you knock the door in, arrest people, look after victims, look after offenders’ dependents and be so aware of safeguarding.” There was an awareness in many presentations that “victims’ needs must be the priority – we should focus on their needs, get them supported, settled and build trust, then – and only then – approach them for evidence.”
This is where partnership working comes into its own. Police, Social Services, charities and religious groups all have a part to play in supporting and safeguarding victims. This is not an easy job – many victims have complex physical and psycho-social needs on top of their recent trauma, plus “many don’t understand that they’d been exploited and don’t trust the police. Partnerships working was excellent in building rapport with the victims.” One presenter referred to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which outlines what needs must be met before people feel comfortable to take agency of their own lives and engage with a criminal case against their traffickers.
Time and again presenters reiterated “We need local partnerships to help with this. Alcohol and drug workers, social workers, anti-trafficking NGOs.” One also commented from experience of working with Medaille Trust that “when we sent male labour exploitation victims to be cared for by Medaille Trust’s Northern safe house it was amazing, they did such an amazing job…it was hard work, the men were alcoholic and chaotic, but with the help of Medaille Trust it was brilliant, they looked after them so well.”
As one delegate summarised: “listening to everyone else shows how everything fits together – we’re not just one little unit doing something, we all fit together in the bigger picture.”
Look out for the conference round-up tomorrow!