Recent headlines about human trafficking have gripped the nation.
But could it happen on our doorstep?
A trio of Lutonians are so concerned it might they’ve formed an out-of-hours social enterprise – Blackbright Community Services Limited, aka BBCS 4 Luton – to combat the problem.
They are NHS children’s services administrator Myrna Loy, Royal Mail delivery officer Kempton Stewart and Dollin Holt, founder of human rights organisation Caprecon.
Myrna, who’s a DJ on Jamrock Radio as well as being editor of Blackbright News, said: “I promised to dedicate two issues to trafficking and on that basis we were promised a grant to help raise awareness and prevent it taking a foothold in Luton and surrounding areas.
“It’s already happening here – there were two arrests in both 2009 and 2011 and I understand there have been nine this year so far. “I started doing some pre-publication research and the more I found out, the more interested I became in the impact it has on vulnerable people.” She added: “If I’d realised, as a teenager, that rowing with my parents and storming out of the house might put me in danger, I would have thought twice.”
The grandmother of three, who lives in Saywell Road, claims trafficking affects different stratas of society: “It ranges from the young child feeling abused or neglected to rebellious teenagers and migrants who can’t speak the language,” she said. “They all make ideal targets for traffickers who exploit them through violence, deception and intimidation, before forcing them to work or have sex in poor conditions for very little pay.
“It continues to happen because of its underground nature. And it’s difficult to tackle because the victims are often led to believe they’re safer with the trafficker than with the police – we need to change that way of thinking.”
BBCS 4 Luton are planning a number of awareness-raising workshops and will hold their first conference in May at the Hat Factory. It will be hosted by Unchosen of Bristol, an anti-trafficking charity behind a film campaign to highlight all forms of modern-day slavery from forced labour to sexual exploitation and domestic servitude in the UK and Ireland.
There will be keynote speakers and a Q&A session afterwards.
Myrna said: “We intend to encourage healthcare organisations, GPs, community leaders and members of the public to become catalysts for a change in culture – a movement towards a mind-set that will no longer tolerate violence and/or abuse in any form.”
> For more details email BBCS4luton@aol.com or call 07957 540899.