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Tackling modern slavery in the leafy suburbs of Surrey

2nd November 2023 | Diocese

The Clewer Initiative

The Diocese of Guildford, Surrey Anti-Slavery Partnership and Reigate Archdeaconry Social Justice Focus (RASJF) joined forces last month to host an event to raise awareness of modern day slavery.

The all-day event, which was entitled ‘Modern Slavery: Right Here, Right Now,’ brought together dozens of people who are working on the frontlines in Surrey to tackle modern slavery.

Victoria Ashdown, a Mission Enabler for Communities at the Diocese of Guildford, explains why the event was so important: "There is a tendency to believe that a county like Surrey is lovely and leafy (which it is) and that modern slavery doesn’t happen here but tragically it does! It is so important to raise awareness, particularly in our churches where people might encounter victims of modern slavery in social action projects. For example, if you run a Food Bank, it is vital that you know how to spot the signs of slavery and what to do about it. Any church working in its community needs to know about exploitation."

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A jam-packed day of seminars

Each seminar provided a different perspective on modern slavery. There was a particular focus on how modern slavery manifests itself in Surrey and what people can do if they have suspicions.

DCI Kerry Loveless, Surrey Police Lead for Modern Slavery, talked about how police forces in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire work together to tackle the crime through a Regional Threat Group. She provided several examples of cases in the South East and shared some of the progress made in terms of arrests.

Chris Elliott and Jennifer Hyde, who jointly chair RASJF, spoke of the signs of slavery and where people might encounter victims. They concluded with a quote from Archbishop Tutu who said "if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has his foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality!"

Bishop Alastair Redfern, the chair of The Clewer Initiative, drew the event to a close, sharing ten trends he has observed while working in the field of modern slavery.


The partner perspective

Detective Sergeant Martyn Linton attended the event on behalf of Surrey Police and talked about the value of members of the public reporting concerns: “The more people who know about modern slavery, the better. The best investigations we run have started as a result of people reporting concerns. If people know, through events such as this, what to report and what to look out for it helps the Police do their job and ultimately, enables us to rescue more victims. We follow up on every line of inquiry but quality of information is vital. The sort of information that really helps is locations, dates, times (so we can look at CCTV) as well as vehicle details or names if you know anyone involved.”

Meg Harper, a Victim Navigator for Justice & Care, explained why it is so important to gather partners: "Partnership work is particularly important in the field of modern slavery because it is a crime which is often hidden. Victims are scared and don’t always come forward. Faith-based groups have a critical role to play as they have such insight into local communities and access to people. They can be there to check in on people and provide a place of trust where vulnerable people might sometimes come and speak."

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