It’s estimated that more than 100,000 people are being held in modern slavery in the UK. Justice and Care’s Charlotte Trefusis, explains what Christmas is like for someone who is trapped.
For Ava and her five year old daughter, this year Christmas may be a bit like yours. Excitement is rising as they look forward to a special meal, some presents and spending time together - enjoying their new home in the North of England. It is a celebration that Ava could not have dreamt of this time last year.
That’s because last year Ava and her daughter were being held in domestic servitude. She was forced to work all of Christmas day, with no time to celebrate or look after her young child.
But this year Ava was found by police. Since then, one of my colleagues at Justice and Care has been supporting her - including recently helping her find a new home, providing the opportunity for a safe place to celebrate Christmas.
He is one of ten Victim Navigators - a growing team of frontline workers who are embedded in police forces around the country. They are there to provide tactical advice into cases, training to officers and, critically, support to survivors - helping them to rebuild their lives, whilst also helping them engage with investigators to ensure that they see justice.
The workload of the Navigators is high - as is the demand for their services from police forces. Modern slavery is all too common in the UK. Based on police data, we estimate there are more than 100,000 victims like Ava. They are hidden behind closed doors, perhaps even on your street - forced to work in brothels, homes, on building sites and in car washes.
For them, Christmas is painful - away from family, for good reason fearful of their own safety, lonely and abused. They have no way of calling home, are often left hungry and have little hope.
However, if victims are discovered by police, and when our Navigators get involved in their story, hope begins to be restored - as Ava is already experiencing. This year, we have been able to provide extensive support to 190 survivors across the UK.
‘It was all darkness. It’s like I’m coming out of a grave into life again.’
That can look like helping them get home or the healthcare they need. As with Ava and her daughter, it can be helping them to secure safe accommodation - or standing with survivors as they face their traffickers in court.
The hope that we bring was described by one of the survivors we have worked with earlier this year when she said: ‘It was all darkness. It’s like I’m coming out of a grave into life again. Your kindness has taught me an important lesson - that there is an alternative way to be human and I am feeling more human again.’
Helping people out of darkness, making them feel more human again, is at the heart of Justice and Care’s work. You can help us to support more modern slavery victims like Ava.
Become a member of our Freedom Network by giving regularly to Justice and Care and the Texel Foundation, one of our corporate partners, will match all donations for 12 months until the match funding pot is used up.
Join our Freedom Network here - justiceandcare.org/the-freedom-network
We need people like you. Fighting slavery. Together.