UK

Trafficking victims 'sold a dream' says archbishop

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe Image copyright PA
Image caption Cardinal Vincent Nichols said support to tackle human trafficking was growing

Young people in Africa are being "sold the dream" of living in the UK only to be trafficked into slavery, the Archbishop of Westminster has said.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols was speaking at a conference of religious leaders and police chiefs in London.

Met Police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told the conference there had been a four-fold rise in victims coming forward over four years.

It was meeting to discuss what measures could best combat trafficking

Cardinal Nichols said: "What struck me the most of all was the extent and the type of enticement and abuse of people that goes on in Africa.

"For example, there are schools for football excellence which get youngsters in and promise them a career in the Premier League, and as soon as they get to England they are enslaved.

'Worse world'

"There seems to be almost no enticement that isn't being used. They come in search of a dream, but of course don't find it.

"There are plenty of people who are willing to entice them and sell them the dream in order to get them here."

And Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe told the conference "Often, people are trafficked at a young age believing that they are entering a better world, when in reality they are entering a far worse world from which they cannot escape."

A recent Home Office report estimated that as many as 13,000 people in the UK have been trafficked into activities such as prostitution, domestic labour, factory work and working on fishing boats.

One victim, Nadia, was married at 13 and trafficked in South East Asia by her husband. Now in her 60s, she found refuge in the UK but spent many years before that in slavery.

'Crime against humanity'

She told the BBC: "They beat me every day, shouting at me, not giving me food, not giving my daughter food, not giving medicine, not taking to a doctor - she sick, sick, sick; she died. Here I am safe."

The collection of religious leaders, government officials and senior international police officers attending the conference is known as the Santa Marta Group, and was launched at the Vatican in April.

At its launch, Pope Francis described trafficking as "an open wound on the body of contemporary society; a crime against humanity".

The group is considering the best ways to stop human trafficking, including measures such as working with local health services to try to identify women sold into sex work.

The next meeting of the group will be in Madrid in October next year.

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