A heavily pregnant woman dumped at the side of the M1; a British girl trafficked for sex since the age of 13; and a young woman living in squalor in a pop-up brothel. This is the true extent of human trafficking across Yorkshire.
Kirsty Allan, the Anti-Trafficking Manager at the City Hearts charity in Sheffield has spoken of her experiences in rescuing society’s most vulnerable from perhaps one of the most wicked crimes.
On average she will go out once a month on raids with South Yorkshire Police to rescue trafficked people. She can visit pop-up brothels, car washes, nail bars, takeaways, and airports and openly talks about the growing problem of trafficking on our doorsteps. Examples of recent raids include an 18-year-old Romanian girl living in squalid conditions surrounded by sex toys. She had arrived in the UK months earlier expecting to go into a hairdressing job.
While a British girl who had been trafficked for sex since the age of 13 came to police attention after her captors had set fire to her in a car park. Kirsty can still remember her first day at City Hearts. “I was walking up the gate to the safe house thinking I would find a group of women happy to be rescued,” she said.
“I was deluded. In the house I found seven different women from seven different countries, scared, lonely, frightened and confused. But there was an underlying unity between them. It took months to learn how to communicate with them.”
Kirsty admits her job has “scary, heart-breaking, frustrating and tearful” moments, but she says the joy of a seeing a life restored is worth it. Her first client was a 26-year-old woman who had was rescued from the side of the M1 and was around seven months pregnant. “Her hair was matted, she couldn’t make eye contact and would not talk,” Kirsty said. “I showed her to her room and she immediately shut the curtains.
“On Christmas day that year, we got a smile as she received her first gift. On Valentine’s Day she gave birth to a daughter and becoming a mother gave her something to call her own.”
On another occasion Kirsty and her team rescued a British teenage girl who had been batter, burned and “literally torn apart” by her abusers.
“She thought we were taking her to another house where she would be trafficked again,” the anit-trafficking manager said.
“When she realised we were there to help, she still could not trust us. She had gone round in circles in the care system. She thought we were all like the others.”
Kirsty later found the woman semi-conscious in bed after taking an overdose. The woman survived and with the help of City Hearts overcame the most horrendous health difficulties caused by her abusers and is now a campaigner for modern slavery and human trafficking across the UK. Another memory that stays with Kirsty happened two days before Christmas Day three years ago when she received a referral call in the middle of the night.
She said: “A mum with two boys was coming to us, so I prepared the room and got ready for their arrival. “It was snowing and they were delivered to us barefoot. “The family had run from their captors that day in their bare feet. The only words the oldest boy could say was thank you. “I headed to Asda to buy them shoes and clothes. “The boys are now doing well at school and their brave mum has learnt to weather the storm. “Kirsty has spoken of her experiences ahead of Anti-Slavery Day which takes place on October 18.
The day provides an opportunity to raise awareness of human trafficking and modern slavery, and encourage government, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals to do what they can to address the problem. It was created by the Anti-Slavery Day Act, a Private Members Bill introduced Anthony Steen CBE, now Chair of the Human Trafficking Foundation.
Each year more and more charities, individuals, local authorities and police forces take action to mark Anti-Slavery Day.
Words by Lucy Leeson from the Yorkshire Post