Hope for Justice is working at local, national and international level to bring an end to modern-day slavery.
One of the charity’s main aims is to reform society by campaigning for changes to the law and official response to modern slavery and its victims, and also by training professionals to spot the signs of trafficking and to respond. We also seek to raise awareness in the media and among the general public to create nations hostile to modern slavery.
For example, in October, we provided training for 100 waste and regulation officers at the Environment Agency to recognise exploitative work practices.
We taught officers how to look for common signs of exploitation, such as an extreme fear of authority, signs of physical or psychological trauma including anxiety or malnourishment, and evidence suggesting workers may be living on site.
Our US team is currently training 600 Deputies at the Sheriff’s Department in Shelby County – the biggest county in Tennessee – and has signed an agreement to train all of the new recruits who join the police academy.
Last year, Hope for Justice trained 10,807 people globally.
More than half of referrals to Hope for Justice of potential victims of modern slavery come from organisations we have trained, and many of those referrals lead directly to rescues.
In Africa, we are supporting governments to protect children and families who are vulnerable. We sit on the Ethiopian government-led (but non-profit driven) National Anti-Human Trafficking and Smuggling Task Force.
We are also developing programmes to facilitate community-led reform. Hope for Justice runs Self-Help Groups in Ethiopia and Uganda, with a focus on family resilience. The women in these groups are often from very poor, marginalised communities. They are being empowered and equipped to make change at a local level.
Alongside these groups, we run child wellbeing clubs and focus on raising awareness within community settings. Working through these three grassroots projects, the charity is making long-term sustainable change.
Children, women, families and entire neighbourhoods are hearing about trafficking, child labour and exploitation. This vital learning is literally saving lives in this generation and generations to come.
We are also working in partnership with the UK government, at all levels, to bring about change in policy. This work currently focuses largely around victim care.
We have been asked to input into the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, introduced in January 2018 by Lord McColl, to give victims of modern slavery in England and Wales a guaranteed right to support in law. We were able to present the views of our clients at Parliament.
Hope for Justice has been campaigning for improvements in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the government’s process for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery – for the past eight years.
Following NRM reform, confirmed victims receive at least 45 days’ support (increased from 14) while their case is considered and those with a negative decision receive nine days (increased from two). However, many victims of trafficking have support needs which go beyond the 45-day recovery period, for example finding accommodation, seeking asylum, and receiving mental and emotional support.
Phillipa Roberts, Director of Legal Policy at Hope for Justice, said: “I feel change has been slow around victim care as often a human rights based approach to anti-slavery work conflicts with immigration policies. This makes victims more fearful of coming forward. Also if you do not have well-supported victims, they are less likely to engage in criminal prosecution cases.”
One estimate suggests just 1% of victims of modern slavery ever see their exploiters brought to justice.
Phillipa continued: “However, we are moving forward. We are providing more help than we have previously with ongoing reform of the current system. Over the past nine years or so, we have seen increased awareness of the issue among front line agencies, largely due to training and more victims identified than ever before.
“But if we do identify more victims, we have got to ensure there is the right support in place – rescue is an event but freedom is a process. We want people to have a chance of recovering from their experience, to have a voice, choices and be integrated back into society. We want to empower them. But if we have to continue working in systems that are fractured, we will continue to have a situation where victims slip through the net into homelessness and destitution, and that places them at risk of being re-exploited. We have to focus on the whole process.”