Lottery cash boost for slavery charity

August 28 2015

A BRISTOL-based charity, founded by Bishopston resident Andrew Wallis, which aims to eliminate modern slavery and human trafficking, is to receive £488k funding for a 24-hour safe-house for male victims in the UK.

A BRISTOL-based charity, founded by Bishopston resident Andrew Wallis, which aims to eliminate modern slavery and human trafficking, is to receive £488k funding for a 24-hour safe-house for male victims in the UK.

Unseen's project will be the first dedicated service of its kind in the country and will support up to four survivors at one time.

Mr Wallis, who is to formally receive an OBE this month for his services to eradicating modern slavery and human trafficking, said: "What we have learned in the UK over the last few years is that the needs of men who have been trafficked or found in situations of modern slavery are acute, sometimes more so than women.

"Therefore, we are delighted to have received this grant from the Big Lottery that will allow us to open the UK’s first specialist high level needs accommodation and support service to help such men begin their journey to recovery and resilience to further exploitation. We are privileged to be able to serve them."

Managing director Kate Garbers said: “Most people tend to think of human trafficking and modern slavery as something that only happens to women and girls. But through our outreach work we’ve met male victims who have been exploited in the UK – either working for little or no money, who’ve been badly treated, psychologically manipulated or who’ve been exposed to extremely poor working conditions – who need our specialist support.

“We are delighted to receive this funding. It will enable us to open a dedicated centre where men with multiple, complex needs can begin to start their recovery in a safe, nurturing environment. The house will staffed 24 hours a day by trained staff who understand the complexities of this hidden crime and who can give these survivors the support they need and deserve.”

The project, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, has come about following official government statistics which reveal that there were 2,340 potential victims found in the UK in 2014, 40% of whom were male.

However, Home Secretary Theresa May admitted in December that there could be as many as 13,000 men, women and children enslaved in the UK.

Victims like Asif, who escaped persecution in his home country, had arrived in the UK vulnerable and desperate for work.

He was subjected to labour exploitation for three years, working in various restaurants for little or no pay, sleeping on their floors and working in hazardous conditions, frequently receiving burns and scars, causing him great mental and physical stress.

A former colleague put him in touch with a refugee support service, which eventually led him to get help from Unseen’s outreach service.

Unseen will help survivors like Asif to access healthcare, legal assistance, emotional and psychological support, education and employability sessions, therapeutic activities and support to move on.

The project’s aim is to empower survivors to become resilient and independent so they can contribute to the community around them.