We were shocked to watch The Real Mo Farah documentary this week and hear his disturbing story of being trafficked to the UK as a child and put to work as a slave for a family he did not know. We are thankful to him for his courage in raising awareness of this horrific crime. He brought to light many harrowing aspects of modern slavery. These are some of our reflections:
- His story is not unique. All across the world, children are being trafficked and exploited and some of these children end up in the UK, unseen and neglected. Worldwide, one in four victims of modern slavery are children. In 2021, 5,468 child victims were referred to the Home Office’s National Referral Mechanism - 2,166 of these children were from overseas. There were 48 cases of domestic servitude – but this is just the tip of the iceberg as many victims never come forward, fearing the repercussions of speaking up.
- Family members are often involved – the revelation that Mo Farah’s uncle agreed to traffic his nephew to the UK and hand him over to an unrelated person, never to be seen again, was one of the most harrowing parts of the documentary. This is not uncommon. Families can often be complicit in child trafficking.
- There were many tell-tale signs – Mo Farah’s teachers tried, again and again, to understand exactly what his background was. They received confused messages about his past and his “family” were reluctant to attend meetings to discuss his situation. Mo would turn up to school unkempt and uncared for and seemed isolated and emotionally distant. When asked questions about his home life, he was evasive, quick to change the subject or pretended not to understand. When his PE teacher encouraged him to join after school running clubs, he made up excuses about why he couldn’t attend. This is so typical. We often speak about the “absence of normal.” If things don’t feel right, they probably aren’t.