11 March 2016
The British Red Cross has been providing support for people from around the world rescued in an anti-trafficking operation in Greater Manchester.
Men and women from countries including China, Afghanistan and Italy were rescued by Greater Manchester Police during a week of action in the region which began on Monday 7 March.
Victims of forced labour or sex trafficking attended a rest centre set up and run by Red Cross emergency response staff and volunteers. The centre was in an undisclosed location within Greater Manchester.
They were provided with practical and emotional support – from hot showers, clean clothing and a bed, to simply listening to their problems.
Many of those trafficked into the UK may have been held prisoner for years and repeatedly told not to trust police or social services. The neutral status of the Red Cross allows us to play a unique role gaining the trust of frightened people - reassuring them that they are safe.
Given the wide range of nationalities of attendees, staff and volunteers rely on ‘picture’ books which people can point to, or translation books with questions such as ‘are you in pain?’ written in many languages.
In total eight people were helped during the week. Many arrived with little more than the clothes they were wearing.
Twenty Red Cross volunteers worked in three shifts around the clock over the five day period, with clothing, food, bedding and personal hygiene products provided for those rescued.
Niall Pemberton, emergency response service manager, said: “The benefit of the Red Cross being involved is that we are an international organisation that people trust and associate with safety and welfare.
“We can provide a space for people to begin to recover and face the emotions they are going through. It’s important that we are there to listen in a way which is impartial and non-judgemental.
“The main skills volunteers use at the rest centres are around active listening and communicating, sometimes with someone who speaks a different language, while giving them space and time to make decisions for themselves.”
Activities that don’t need a shared language are provided at the rest centre, like packs of cards and boardgames, so volunteers can spend time building up a rapport with attendees.
In situations like this, the people who are rescued are free to leave at any point. Sadly some do return to traffickers, either because they do not believe they are being exploited, or because they are afraid of repercussions.
Where victims do decide to accept help the Red Cross works with the authorities to provide entry to the National Referral Mechanism. A period in protective accommodation, provided by the Salvation Army, is often the first step in breaking free of their traffickers and starting a new life elsewhere.
Find out more about our work with victims of trafficking.