This year, our West Yorkshire team have been heavily involved in a Community Development Project alongside local partners, to assist groups vulnerable to trafficking in the area. What started as a small initiative has gained recognition and popularity and has grown into a project making a real difference. POMOC, which means ‘help’ in Slovak, Czech and Polish, was set up to empower members of Roma communities, many of whom had been forced into isolation due to language, social and economic barriers. Such isolation creates a high-risk environment for people being trafficked into modern slavery.
Research has found that Roma families often flee to the UK to escape extreme social, ethnic and economic marginalisation in their country of origin – only to face similar social and racial discrimination in the UK. Compounded by language barriers and limited literacy, this makes building a life and finding work extremely difficult. Without financial means to support themselves, these families are left desperate for ways to support their families and highly vulnerable to offers of exploitative work.
Recognising the need for these families to access support, Hope for Justice has joined with Bradford Council and St John’s Church to set up POMOC, a drop-in service operating 3.5-hour sessions offering interpretation and help with forms, housing advice and referrals to other agencies.
A common problem with identifying victims of modern slavery is that people do not know they are being exploited. With communities that have been subject to centuries of persecution, expectations of what treatment they deserve are especially low and so many will not even realise they are suffering injustice. Through building relationships of trust and helping with paperwork, Hope for Justice has been able to identify people suffering exploitation and offer them advice and help they need, empowering them to make their own choices about their future.
POMOC has proven to be a great success so far and has helped nearly 400 people from the area with various support needs. Its aim is to continue to work with people to empower them with the tools they need for independence. In turn, this will reduce their vulnerability to slavery and enable more people to find freedom.
We are pleased to be part of the initiative and are especially grateful for the work our West Yorkshire Hub, who have been instrumental in putting this together and continue to work to support vulnerable families in the Bradford area.