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09 March 2012

‘Beware of a Euro-centric approach to human trafficking’

‘Beware of a Euro-centric approach to human trafficking’

by Simon Hawthorne

Sincere congratulations to Matt Redman and LZ7 for their recent chart success with their single Twenty Seven Million. I confess that when I first heard about the single and the associated campaign earlier this year, it was with a mix of great excitement about the very real potential of raising awareness through the song, mixed with some qualms that the campaign is likely to focus on Europe, where only a small minority of the problem really lies.

2007 was an opportunity to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. This coincided with the birth of anti-trafficking organisations like Stop the Traffik, Hope For Justice and also the A21 Campaign, who are backing the new single. The recent surge of interest in human trafficking is largely as a result of the hard work of these and similar organisations.

According to the Home Office, it is believed that between 100,000 and 800,000 people have been trafficked. This represents at most only three per cent of the 27 million. According to the same source, between 4,000 and 8,000 people are believed to be victims of trafficking into the UK, representing 0.03 per cent of the 27 million. While it is entirely laudable that every effort is made to eradicate all trafficking in Europe, it appears that most resources are focusing on the problem on our doorstep, and very little to where the bulk of the problem originates.

Of the UN's figure of 27 million, 18 million are from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with the vast majority being from India. India's caste system continues to leave a vast number of people marginalised and trapped in poverty, which inevitably leads to many being victims of trafficking. India accounts for over half of the UN figure and even that excludes the 20 million people (15 million of them children) that have been sold into bonded labour.

There are believed to be 1.2 million children sold or trafficked into prostitution in India, according to the Indian government; Save the Children believes the figure may be much higher. This equates to one in 43 of the girls in India who are aged between 12 and 16. Accurate figures on an issue which is illegal will always be difficult to acquire but the figures used here are likely to be conservative.

The question remains, why does India not come under the spotlight more regarding human trafficking? The answer may be that, in the case of the UK, we feel nervous about challenging a country so long dominated by our colonial past. After all, it remains that human rights abuse, brought about by the caste system, could have been better addressed while this country had greater influence. It is also true that the issue of human trafficking, as far as India is concerned, is extremely complicated, and trafficking in Europe in comparison is easier to address. This is no excuse for not trying and we should all surely embrace the new and positive interest in this issue to give all victims of human trafficking a voice.

Simon is founder trustee of Life Association, a registered charity that for 20 years has been building schools and children's homes in some of the poorest parts of India. He works to raise awareness of the plight of the Dalits through his brand Dalit Candles.www.dalit.co.uk

Contact Simon at info@lifeassociation.co.uk