Unchosen: “Make Devon a Traffick-Free Zone”

Unchosen is ‘an anti-trafficking charity raising awareness of human trafficking through film campaigns nationwide’.  Human trafficking has recently been in the news in the UK due to the proposal of the Modern Slavery Bill; http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/apr/08/modern-slavery-bill-sweeping-changes .  Unchosen, funded by Comic Relief, held “Make Devon a Traffick-Free Zone” in the Alumni Auditorium at the University of Exeter on June 4th. The event aimed to raise awareness about human trafficking in the UK and to encourage people to look out for trafficking in their local areas. 

The event consisted of three parts, an exhibition, a film screening and a Q&A panel.  Outside the Alumni Auditorium in the Forum there were Exhibition Stalls, where charities displayed the work they’re doing for victims of human trafficking.  The exhibiting charities were Amnesty International, British Red Cross International, Family Tracing, Devon Grapevine, Exeter Fairtrade Steering Group, Purple Teardrop Campaign, Refugee Support Group, Restore, and Exeter Anti-Slavery Group.  The exhibition was a good way for people to talk to members of the charities, to find out about some of the support available in Devon for victims of trafficking and to learn a bit about how to help their work.

Next Unchosen showed 3 short films in the Alumni Auditorium.  These short films were based on real case studies, which were very effective tools in making people think about victims of trafficking.  In our event packets we were given a list of trafficking myths.  Each of the short films debunked trafficking myths. 


  • British Nationals cannot be victims of trafficking. British Nationals can and have been victims of trafficking.
  • Human trafficking only happens in illegal, underground industries. Trafficking happens in other industries such as High St nail bars, residential homes, agriculture and food processing.
  • Trafficking must involve physical force. Psychological abuse, withholding passports, harm or threat of harm to families, threats or deception may also be used to exploit victims of trafficking.
  • Trafficking must involve sexual abuse or exploitation. Many types of trafficking such as forced labour, organ harvesting and domestic servitude sometimes don’t include sexual exploitation.
  • Only women and girls are traffickedMen and boys ARE also victims of trafficking, and the figures are rising.


  • The first film was about Hung, who left Vietnam when he was sixteen years old after his parents paid a travel agent US$25000 to organise travel and a job for him in the UK.  Hung was taken to a house where he was forced to tend cannabis plants, using toxic chemicals without protection.  He never saw any money and he was fed one plate of rice a day.   Eventually he was found, but spent time in prison because he was too afraid to talk about his traffickers. This film demonstrates the problem of the distrust in the police felt by some victims of trafficking.  Due to the confusion of language barriers and the fear of traffickers hurting them or their families, victims of trafficking are not likely to defend themselves, resulting in their unfair imprisonment.
  • The second film showed Beatrise, a 24 year old who left Latvia to work as an au pair in Ireland.  The man that arranged it, a friend of her cousin, took her to Ireland, raped her and forced her to work as a prostitute.  After Beatrise was finally found, she was supported by the Dublin-based charity, Ruhama.  This film explored whether buying sex should be criminalised, which was discussed in more detail later in the Q&A.
  • The third film depicted Nicu, who was sold to a gang by his parents when he was 9, so that he could work in Spain and send money back to them.  He was taught to pick-pocket and to take money from cash machines while people were using them.  He was beaten if his employers thought he had not stolen enough.  Some months later, Nicu was taken to a house in London, where he lived with fourteen other people and slept on the floor.  The police broke into this house and found Nicu and placed him in foster care.  The local authorities contacted his parents and sent him back to Romania, but he has since disappeared and is thought to have been trafficked again.  This film raised the question of problems with retrafficking and how it can be prevented.


The final section of the event was the Q&A Panel which was chaired by Professor Nick Kaye, Dean of Humanities and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Education at the University Of Exeter.  The panellists were:

Camilla Brown– Chief Executive Officer, Unchosen

Kate Gambers, Co-Founder and Project Director, Unseen

Mr. Shaun Sawyer, QPM- Chief Constable, Devon and Cornwall Constabulary

Alexis Wright– Founding Director, Njenni Enterprise

Issues raised in the Q&A:

What are the signs of trafficking?

Shaun Sawyer:  The most important thing when looking out for trafficking is having an awareness of the society.  For example, how many people are living in a house? Are men always coming and going to a house?  It is important not to just blame the perpetrator of a crime- who’s behind it?

Camilla Brown:  Trust your instincts.  Is something wrong here?  Kalayaan, a charity promoting justice for migrant domestic workers, had a case where a piano teacher noticed that every time she came to teach her pupil there was a migrant domestic worker sitting on the floor to eat. She reported this to Kalayaan and it turned out that this lady was a victim of trafficking. 

What is currently happening with the Domestic Migrant Worker VISA?

Camilla Brown: In 1998, the Labour government started issuing the Domestic Migrant Worker VISA which allowed workers to change employers without becoming illegal.  In the last two years, under the Conservative government, this has changed.  If a migrant domestic worker leaves an employer due to abuse they immediately become illegal and risk being deported.

(This article in the Guardian goes into more detail about this: http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2012/feb/29/new-visa-rules-domestic-workers )

Should the buying of sex be criminalised? The Modern Slavery Bill is not looking at criminalising the people that buy sex, unlike the Nordic model where criminalising men kills demand.
Kate Gambers: After reviewing the Nordic model it has shown that whilst it reduces sex sold on the street and in brothels, it has not had an effect on trafficking.

Alexis Wright: If we stigmatise the buying of sex but don’t criminalise it, it may move forward quicker.

Shaun Sawyer: Just criminalising men is not a convincing argument.  We need to change and educate a generation of how buying sex is totally unacceptable, i.e. restorative justice.  We also need to confront the issue of UK citizens exploiting those who have been trafficked- the UK government is trying to take a lead.

Is there representation of human trafficking in the crime plan?

Shaun Sawyer: There is a lack of representation of human trafficking in the crime plan and a lack of resources.  This year there were more than 20 known cases of forced labour in Devon in the first quarter, yet only 4 forces in the UK have a human trafficking/rights person on the force.  

Do the police have sufficient leeway in the system respective to the person’s background?

Kate Gambers:  It’s important to think about welfare before recognising a crime.  The crime is an issue for the police, whereas welfare is what charities like Unchosen, Unseen, Kalayaan and Njenni Enterprise are interested in.  There are so many types of trafficking and it is vital to think around the circumstances surrounding the crime.  There are also issues with the lengthof referrals at Crown Court after a Migrant Domestic Worker loses a VISA (for escaping/ leaving an employer)- The trial may take 18 months but there are only 45 days of cover for a non-UK citizen/immigrant without a VISA.  This leads to the issue of extradition and a trial under a completely different judiciary.  To fight human trafficking there needs to be more global co-operation, where evidence found in the UK could be used to prosecute overseas.

Are trafficked brides covered by the modern slavery bill?

Kate Gambers:  In the case of trafficked brides, marriage has been used as a shield.  Therefore, they are not under modern slavery bill but there is wider support for trafficked brides under the Domestic Violence Act.

Final comments on human trafficking:

Shaun Sawyer:  Slavery was supposed to have been wiped out, but here it is again.  It seems to be directly linked with global poverty.  The worse the poverty, the more human trafficking by people who want to make a quick buck however they can.

Camilla Brown:  It is the responsibility of the consumer to prevent human trafficking.

Alexis Wright: Through the empowerment of women and the education of women, human trafficking will be reduced.


Overall, I thought this event was organised very well.  It ran smoothly and was informative in different ways, detailing what trafficking is and allowing people to find out how they can help.

If any of you are budding film makers, Unchosen is running another film competition which you can read more about here: http://www.unchosen.org.uk/film-competition.html

If you want to do more research on human trafficking, here are a few resources:




Human trafficking is happening all around us.  This short documentary shows that consumers buying prawns in supermarkets such as Tesco, Aldi and Morrisons are supporting human trafficking in Thailand:


This is an article about Circus Kathmandu, a circus which is formed of young victims of trafficking. They’re performing at Glastonbury, so be sure to check them out if you’re there! http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-27989494




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