Woman holding food

The Salvation Army launches European anti-trafficking campaign

Joining together across Europe, The Salvation Army began its first pan-continental campaign to raise awareness of—and deter people from being duped into—human trafficking and modern slavery. Around half of the 31 European countries with a Salvation Army presence have so far begun a multi-modal campaign, encouraging consumers to consider whether low prices come at the high cost of human exploitation. In “source” countries, social media activity and poster campaigns are prompting job hunters who may be susceptible to unrealistic offers of work abroad to consider whether the offers are too good to be true.

The Salvation Army in the UK is the latest to launch its variation of the campaign, coinciding with a major modern slavery plot line in the popular national ITV continuing drama series, Coronation Street. Script editors have been working behind the scenes with Salvation Army specialists who provide support to victims who have been rescued from slavery in the UK, in what is set to be an “explosive” series of events for the character Alina Pop as the devastating truth about her life as a trafficked woman is revealed. 

Romanian actor Ruxandra Porojnicu, who plays Alina, has spoken about the importance of raising awareness of these important issues. “All these victims, like in Alina’s case, can appear like they are living a normal life,” she said. “No one would notice they are going through such tough times and they need help unless we look more closely. Victims need to know there are so many people who care for them and support is available when they need it. 

“I am keen to raise awareness about this worldwide problem and not be indifferent. We should all know about modern slavery. We should all spread awareness about subjects that have such a negative impact on people’s lives so that changes can be made and help provided. Some people are depending on us and our actions.”

From the fictional Weatherfield in the north-west of England, to the red-light district of Amsterdam, from affluent Oslo in Norway to the poorest European capital city, Chișinău in Moldova, The Salvation Army is working to prevent victims entering the cycle of modern slavery and is supporting victims where they have escaped from the grips of their slave masters.

The Salvation Army’s pan-European anti-trafficking campaign uses fake advertisements to show that human tragedy often lurks behind cheap products and services, and the demand for a deal fuels a trade in men and women who are forced to work for little or no money and live in substandard conditions, deprived of their freedom.

The ads trick people into thinking they are going to get a cheap deal on goods commonly funded by modern slavery, such as nail bars and car washes. Once the audience clicks through to the ad, the truth is revealed, as they are taken to a landing page—in their own language—featuring stories of real victims of modern slavery who have been supported by The Salvation Army and information on how to be more mindful of the risks. 

The campaign concept has been created by the Swedish Agency House of Friends. 

“In an unique and powerful way the campaign is strongly focused on increasing the awareness and stopping the demand of modern slavery and the recruitment of victims,” said Lars Beijer, a representative from The Salvation Army’s European Communication Network. 

“We need to stop using these services and take responsibility for what we use,” adds Madeleine Sundell, an anti-trafficking lawyer for The Salvation Army in Sweden, one of the countries which has spearheaded and part-financed the campaign. This is the first time that Salvation Army anti-trafficking practitioners have joined forces with their communications colleagues on a Europe-wide basis.

The precise implementation of the campaign varies from country to country, to remain sensitive to the local needs and context. Examples of the way the campaign is being used can be seen at highcost.salvationarmy.org. In the Latvian capital Rīga, thanks to support from JCDecaux, a large number of posters have been installed on bus stops, ensuring that anyone using the public transport network is confronted with the messaging. Meanwhile in Finland, members, employees and supporters of The Salvation Army have been provided with resources to help them identify the sometimes-subtle signs of trafficking, ahead of a two-week public roll-out in September. The campaign will run for three years, with planning for 2020 already underway.

Salvationists and friends in all 131 countries in which The Salvation Army operates are invited to take part in the International Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking, this year on Sept. 22. 

Spot the signs

You could come into contact with a victim of modern slavery without even realizing; however there can be some telltale signs.

Some signs are physical:

  • They may look uneasy, unkempt or malnourished. 
  • They may have untreated injuries.

Some signs are less obvious:

  • Someone else is paying for their travel.
  • Someone else is speaking for them.
  • Perhaps they are picked up and dropped off from work at unusual times. 
  • They may not be sure of their own address.

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. 

If you have come into contact with someone who you suspect may be a victim of modern slavery and in need of help, contact The Salvation Army in your own country (see details at salvationarmy.org). If there is an immediate danger to the suspected victim or if you think that the suspected victim is under 18, inform the police as a matter of urgency.

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