Julie was kept a slave in an underground brothel for six and a half years. She was barely allowed to leave the dark basement room where dozens of men raped her every day. A medical expert who examined her said her physical and mental injuries were similar to that of a prisoner of war. But when Julie was found, instead of being offered help, she was arrested for having false documents and sent to prison for six months.
She told everyone - police, her lawyer, the judge - about what had happened to her. She explained that her trafficker had given her those false documents. No one believed her.
Every year, Eaves' Poppy Project helps women like Julie recover from the trauma of human trafficking. Currently, Prime Minister Cameron is considering a Modern Slavery Bill which aims to stop the trade in human beings in the UK, but the bill falls far short of what's needed to help survivors and stop the cycle of violence.
The current bill contains a lot of important clauses on sentences for trafficking but there is nothing in it that will stop authorities from putting victims like Julie in prison. There is nothing in it that will put in law the rights to legal, health and other support victims should receive after such a horrific ordeal.
A law to fight modern slavery should also protect the victims of modern slavery. Please write to Prime Minister Cameron today to make sure that Julie and all other women like her are helped, and not hurt, by the Modern Slavery Bill.
Dear Prime Minister,
I understand you are currently putting together a Modern Day Slavery Bill which aims to stop the trade in human beings in the UK. Whilst I congratulate you on proposing a bill which is much needed, I am writing to let you know of my serious concerns about the draft bill which is currently in parliament.
As you know, the trade and exploitation of human beings is the world's most profitable crime after drug trafficking. The UN believes millions of people are trafficked every year. In the UK, officials believed they found just over 2,000 victims last year but experts fear the real numbers may be much higher than this. The problem is trafficking remains a hidden crime with few victims coming to the attention of authorities.
This is partly because traffickers use all sorts of control tactics to ensure victims cannot escape and more damagingly, they make victims believe the authorities won't believe or help them. Sadly, in far too many cases, this turns out to be true.
Many of the 2,000 trafficking victims found in the UK last year were women and girls who found themselves forced into prostitution, domestic work, drug cultivation or marriages. Each year, Eaves' Poppy Project supports just over 200 such women. The project provides safe housing, legal, financial and mental health support to help women recover.
Some of these women had managed to escape and sought help from authorities. However, instead of the help and support they should have received many were not believed. Worse still, some found themselves in jail for crimes their traffickers forced them to commit.
[Your comments here]
So while I support your aim to put more traffickers in prison, I believe you can only do that when victims feel protected and trust that the authorities will believe them. I am therefore writing to make a Tiny Protest (#tinyprotest) for the following principles to be included in your bill:
1. Victims should be identified and treated in the same way wherever they are from in the world.
2. Victims should have at least 90 days access to legal, health and resettlement services.
3. Victims should not be imprisoned or detained as a result of crimes their traffickers forced them to commit.
4. Where victims choose to return home, steps should be taken to keep them safe and help given to rebuild their lives.
5. Victims have a right to compensation which should include funds from the confiscated assets of traffickers.
6. Victims have a right to justice and should expect crimes against them to be investigated whenever they took place.
7. The Anti-Slavery Commissioner should be politically independent and have the authority to hold officials to account.
Thank you for taking the time to listen.
[Your name here]