24 November 2011
Human trafficking in Wales
In October, Terry Tennens of the International Justice Mission (IJM), a Christian organisation combating human trafficking in 14 countries globally, came to Wales for a series of meetings. His itinerary included giving presentations at the monthly National Assembly prayer breakfast and the Cross Party Group on Faith, raising awareness of this tragic and yet lucrative transnational crime along with giving encouraging examples of lives of victims being restored and perpetrators being brought to justice.
It was four years ago, in November 2007, when PQ last focussed on trafficking in Wales. Then, the feeling was that, although there were no statistics available, the problem was known to exist but was not thought to be a major one on the same scale as domestic violence or child abuse. Concern was also growing at the time among politicians and campaigners of the need for greater awareness to be raised.
Joyce Watson AM, elected to the National Assembly in 2007, established the Cross Party Group on Trafficking of Women and Children and also commissioned research on the prevalence of trafficking in Wales. The findings were published in her 2010 report, Knowing no Boundaries, in which she called for the appointment of an All Wales Trafficking Director to oversee the implementation of Welsh government protocols
As a result of her report, former police chief Robert Tooby was appointed in March 2010 as Wales' first anti-trafficking co-ordinator, making it his first task to find out how big a problem it was in Wales.
He warned in September this year that victims of human trafficking could be pouring in to Wales through Wales' sea ports - a prediction made all the more chilling in light of recent revelations that border checks had been relaxed in 28 UK ports and airports.
Numbers-wise, Amnesty estimated in 2008 that there were 150 female victims of sex trafficking in Wales. Another of their reports in March this year on the sex trade in Cardiff found that, of the estimated 600 sex trade workers in the capital, there were trafficked women from Eastern Europe, China, Nigeria and Thailand. BAWSO (Black Association of Women Step Out), a Welsh charity for women from ethnic minorities, revealed that they have cared for 22 trafficked women over the past two years at a safe house in a secret location.
Interest in anti-trafficking in Wales is growing among Christians, owing much to the work of organisations such as IJM.