The streets are empty, the shops are closed, the sound of quiet. Nothing seems normal at present; social distancing is the new norm.
Where are the car wash workers? Where are the nail bar workers? Where are the women and men trapped in sex slavery? Where are those being forced to cultivate drugs?
Life may have slowed down, however, has vulnerability and exploitation really gone?
Where are they?
This is the question that is constantly running through my mind. I don’t know the exact answer, and my heart breaks when I think of their possible current conditions.
Over the past month I have been reflecting on where these people are? The exploited people who are normally hidden in society, are even more hidden now. The people that were already invisible are now completely invisible.
The only things I know for certain are, that they may be hidden but they still exist and that after this has passed we will still be here, we will still be fighting and shining the light for their freedom, and we will find them.
There may be no car washes, no nail bars, few restaurants open. However, it does not concur that trafficking has gone, that slavery and exploitation isn’t happening, and that the many people across Scotland that we knew were being held have been set free.
By its very nature human trafficking reduces people to commodities to be used for financial gain and despite our change in lifestyle there remain needs and even demands in our economy. Increased demand for workers in agriculture, food manufacture and social care, the need for illegal drugs has not disappeared overnight and people will still buy and sell sex, to name but a few!
These precious human beings are still amongst us, living in small, cramped, derelict places, mobile homes or hidden in domestic dwellings. With very little food, restricted movement or choice about their daily life, denied sleep, medical care, subjected to violence, being medicated against their will. Still being forced to do the unthinkable. The conditions getting worse by the day. Now it seems they may be even less visible to the human eye.
What can we do?
Whilst they become more hidden, our less complicated, stripped back lives allow many of us more time and space to consider the world around us, our senses are heightened we hear and see things we haven’t before. So, as you take your daily exercise or on your trip for essential items, consider your neighbourhood, be more vigilant.
Are there many people living under one roof, is there accommodation and property that is unkempt, are curtains always closed, are there taxis and other vehicles coming and going day and night?
You could spot the signs of modern slavery and human trafficking in your neighbourhood, perhaps it is in your street?
The question remains – where are they now? May it be that as our cities, towns and villages fall silent, we may just hear the voices of those trapped in slavery, those who long for freedom.
If you have suspicions, or concerns about anyone in your neighbourhood or your contact the MODERN SLAVERY HELPLINE on 0800 012 1700, if there is immediate danger contact POLICE SCOTLAND on 999
Call to Action
SOHTIS believes everyone deserves to live in freedom with dignity and respect.
There are ways that we can all be involved in being part of the solution to human trafficking in Scotland. Some as simple as raising awareness by following SOHTIS on social media and sharing our posts or volunteering skills, linking us with useful networking contacts or donating funds.
Please get in touch to find out how you can join us in our support of survivors.