- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
In the Welsh Assembly I am the chair of the All-Party Working Group on Human Trafficking in Wales.
I am proud of the work that we do but I am not pleased that such a position is necessary. However, this year the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) estimates that there are approximately 300 child trafficking victims in the UK per annum. A number of those victims will be in Wales.
We have a proud record of inter-nationalism in Wales. Our churches and chapels have a history of caring for those less fortunate than ourselves wherever in the world they are found. Today, the fundamental challenge stays the same but the way in which problems show themselves in our ever-changing, fast-moving world are different and often more complex.
We do not have to step far from our doorsteps to find examples of human trafficking. This is not a matter for complacency. On Radio Wales recently it was reported that most people in Wales live only a mile away from where human trafficking is taking place. The problem is rural as well as urban.
The words “community” and “cymuned” in Welsh mean a lot to us in Wales. We are proud that people care for their neighbours and that they look out for each other. Sadly, those words can also be used to cover up what we do not like to see.
It has been reported that hotels, restaurants, takeaways, shops, farms, factories and nail bars are all being looked at by officers investigating “corrupt employment agencies” filtering illegally trafficked people into the workplace.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre has said that organised criminal gangs within countries including China, Nigeria, Vietnam, Slovakia and Romania now pose the greatest threat to the UK where they can exploit their victims for sex, labour and domestic slavery.
We have always been brought up in Wales to believe that our neighbour does not just mean the person living next door. However, we now realise that that neighbour may have flown many thousands of miles to become part of our community. Our helping hand is not just a metaphor; it can be meant literally, too.
Human trafficking knows no boundaries. Our best defence against it is our common humanity. Being in Wales does not mean hiding away from the problems of others. It means exposing them and doing something about them.