The sun was shining and somewhere around the world people were sunbathing, splashing in the water, having a barbecue or just zonking out in their back garden with a beer or two. Life is ok man, when the sun shines and you have some money to spend. Hey, lazy days, we love them. We call them stress busters, happy tune time, or chilling. Cool, for those who have the time to laze.
‘Hey man, don’t change the music. I’m into the blues, its soulful man. It’s rocking my boat.’ And there he lies, without understanding, listening to the blues.
There’s a pounding at the door, reluctantly he gets up to answer it and opens the door to the police. Several questions later and he has worked out the story; his next door neighbour has been keeping slaves. ‘Hell!’ He didn’t even know. He thought it was all a big movie thing and media talk. He grabbed his phone and texted a few of his friends. While waiting for their response he went on the net.
Wow! The information came at him thick and fast. In 2007 it was reported that 5000 child sex workers were in the UK, most had been trafficked into the country. ‘That’s puke zone!’
In 2013, 1,746 cases of slavery in the UK a 47% increase on 2012 and the figure was likely to be much higher. He thought, ’Where have I been living! Slavery, next door!’ People being trafficked from places like Romania, Albania, Nigeria and Vietnam.
More figures, he wants to turn his phone off but can’t. He’s on the BBC site with several cases of sexual exploitation and forced labour. He reads one of an 84 year old man and a 10 year old deaf girl. ‘Oh, puke!’ A gypsy site in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire 2011, (he doesn’t even know where it is) twenty four men set free, some after years of slave labour. The same place again in December 2013 more vulnerable men freed. Loads of it!
The door is pounded again. His mates pile in to find out what happened when the cops came calling. There were now four phones on the go and one laptop. In between gasps of astonishment and a barrage of swearing, the facts continued to roll in from places some had had holidays in.
Devon & Cornwall – 8 Czech nationals freed and 8 arrested all of foreign origin.
Lincoln (lovely cathedral) – 9 freed from forced labour and seven arrests made.
Slavery, “more prolific and lucrative than ever”. An estimated 30 million slaves worldwide with the criminals making around $150bn. The air turned blue with ‘bloody’ being the softest term and, utterances of surprise from everyone in the room. Pizza and drinks were ordered. The race was on to find the worst case. More than 10,000 slaves are in the UK, says Frank Field, Labour MP. ‘Where are they all?’ Horror! Two-thirds of children saved went AWOL again once the traffickers found out where they had been resettled. There was genuine surprise at the ruthlessness of the traffickers.
The pizza didn’t last long.
Everything stopped, it was quiet, and someone made coffee. There was a kind of telepathic understanding; as cyclists they could raise money. A ride was not a problem, a 10K run, they could handle, but this needs to be different. It would need to be something that got a lot of publicity. Not a gimmick, but everything is a sort of gimmick, but this was bloody serious stuff.
Ideas started to flow: a 10K run, but every entrant had to buy a T shirt to participate. Not a black on white one, more colourful, different but bold with the message crystal clear. A mosaic of colour as the runners pounded along the route of the run. Organise a cycle through London at peak time. How many guys could they call on to help? Who do they know is a graffiti artist? Do an outrageous stunt for ‘You Tube’, a twitter campaign, a sit down outside TV studios and sell badges and car stickers.
All these ideas were considered as, here today but gone tomorrow. They need something lasting. Trucks with their sides painted roaring up and down the country, with smart art work/graffiti. A plastic bag levy, the proceeds to be pooled to help the victims. A £10K/$15K prize for the best idea for an anti-slavery campaign; sponsored by either government or big business.
Set up a national/international competition for graffiti artists to design an anti-slavery poster. The work could be displayed in local museums for an entrance fee of £1/$1.50. People would then be able to vote on line for the local winner and later for the national winner. Of course that needs a logistics expert but then good causes generate good people/organisations to help.
A photo taken with a pop star, TV star or film star for a fee of £10/$15, with all proceeds pooled for victim support or help towards costs.
More coffee and a good stretch as juices start to fade. ‘Who fancies a beer?’
‘We should leave it to the government.’
‘Oh, no, you should read this! They’ve shamefully let big business off the hook by dropping the supply chain option from the Modern Slavery Bill.’
‘It means that the big boys can still buy goods from suppliers who use slave labour.’
‘Here’s one, called double criminality; whatever the charge it has got to be exactly the same in other countries otherwise the shysters get away scot free.’
‘I’ve got one, a children’s charity the ECPAT, they say that the Bill is too narrow and does not have enough about victim support.’
‘Stuff the government then! They’ve lost my vote.’
‘Make that two. Wait a mo. (hands are raised) All five!’
‘What’s the point; those guys could go down town any weekend and find loads sprawled out, wide-eyed and legless; cheap as well!’ Laughter.
‘What would be your dream scenario?’
‘Blockbuster movie with all the action heroes, you know, Rambo types; flying all over the world taking out trafficking gangs.’
‘Name that movie!’
‘A Cry of Innocence’
‘Sex: Make it about Love’
There’s a lot of laughter and lots of cooing.
‘What about a game? Some evil nutter with a serum infects trafficked women and kids and men who catch the disease must pay for the antidote. Millions are infected and we need to find the baddies. Special hit squads are set up; the player must pick his team, outline his strategy, then get in and clean up.’
‘What would you call it?’
‘Keep your zip up’ The Iron jockstrap!
‘Drop your pants and die’
‘Don’t let Johnnie roam’
There is much laughter.
‘Seriously, what about Killing Darkness’
A holler of oohs and aahs brought the group a lot of attention.
Barman calls over, “You lot are loud tonight.”
‘Just deciding how to kill off the slave traders.’
Barman, “Oh yeah, read something like that in the paper.”
A conversation starts at the bar.
Don’t rely on the government! A new toothless law won’t help. We already have sufficient laws. It’s a game politician’s play, to be seen to be doing something but keep the costs down and the big boys smiling, hence no supply chain legislation. They tell the police to take action but don’t increase their budget. They speak loud for a short period and then let the whole thing slide back into the abyss. They treat people like children with a short interest span.