Student Spotlight: Stand for Freedom

Amelia Oakley 23 May 2015

36 million people. That’s the estimated number of people living in slavery in the world today (according to the Global Slavery Index). That’s more than at any point in history; more even than during the high water mark of the Transatlantic slave trade from the 16th to early 19th centuries. It is not a crime that only exists in history; it still haunts us today. It remains hidden, usually not talked about in general conversation or the media. But this is changing, especially with the rise of the so-called Islamic State (IS). We hear horrific stories of Yazidi and Christian girls as young as nine, being abducted, raped, forced to be married off and sold in markets to the highest bidder. We see stories of this with every new town taken by IS, which serves to explain why so many people from these minorities are fleeing from their homes, and ending up in other lands, sometimes trafficked across the Mediterranean and facing the fate of being rejected by EU coast guards and ending up drowned.

This highlights the horrors of human trafficking, or the taking away of people from the homes to somewhere completely alien to them. People who are trafficked often fall for the lies of traffickers, promising a better life in another country and forcing them to pay huge amount of money and ending up being forced into prostitution, forced labour or domestic servitude when they arrive. It’s a massive problem, and is the fastest growing form of international crime (UN Office on Drugs and Crime) and the second largest source of illegal income in the world today (Belser, 2005). It is hugely profitable and is putting a price tag on millions of the lives of real people.

But don’t think for a minute that this phenomenon is merely taking place in locales far away from our cushy lives here in the UK. It is very real and often hidden under the surface. In London alone, there are 2,212 brothels and the police estimate that up to 50% of those working in the brothels may have been trafficked (Association of Chief Police Officers). This is a pretty massive statistic and doesn’t stop there. There are roughly 100 brothels in Cambridgeshire (Cambridgeshire Police), which could have about equal numbers of trafficking victims. So trafficking and slavery are problems that are happening right here in Cambridge. Clearly, something needs to be done about this.

One of the things that need to be done is to better educate people on the facts of modern day slavery and human trafficking. Hopefully, you, in reading this, will have become slightly more aware of the issue (for more information, I would recommend going to the Stop the Traffik website), though there are lots of other great websites- keep looking and bear in mind that some statistics are estimates, so may vary!). However, there is still a woeful lack of knowledge among the general public about these facts; mainly because they are simply not told and don’t know what is going on.

Therefore, I, along with a number of guys from the Just Love and Student Life societies, are going to be doing what is known as a Stand for Freedom this weekend. It will literally take the form of a 27-hour long ‘stand’, where we will have a number of things dedicated to raising awareness and taking action on human trafficking. This is a ‘Day for their Everyday’ (though, of course, standing around in Cambridge city is nothing like the experiences of those trafficked, but it will hopefully raise awareness of those who are). This will include a cardboard tower, where people will be able to put down their feelings of what freedom is, what justice is, among others and we will have lots of information about human trafficking and ways to act there too (including a letter to our new MPs- a welcome to parliament, if you will…).

There are other things too, but you’ll have to come along, to find out! The Stand is from 12pm on 23 May to 3pm the next day, starting at King’s Parade during the day of the 23rd, before moving to the junction of Market Street and Sidney Street (in front of Holy Trinity church) for the night and the 24th. 

We would love it if you came to join us, either for all of it, for an hour, or just to pop down and say hi at some point (and possibly donate some food or coffee- we’ll be living off handouts!)! We welcome everyone to come down and keep us company in order to join the fight against modern day slavery. Together, with one voice, let us shout out a new Battle Cry of Freedom against slavery and the trade in human lives!