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Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Stolen Lives

To mark Human Trafficking Awareness Day, we're sharing an extract from the introduction to Louise Hulland's powerful investigation into human trafficking and modern slavery in the UK. We're very proud to publish this important book, and to have teamed up with anti-slavery charity Unseen in 2020 to raise funds around the publication of Stolen Lives. You can find Unseen on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, and can donate to them here.

Imagine completing your degree, going on holiday with your boyfriend, then finding yourself imprisoned in a brothel.

Imagine meeting a friendly benefactor at your local church, who offers you a new life in the UK but who on arrival takes your papers, refuses to pay you and threatens your family if you complain.

Imagine befriending a kindly neighbour as a child, who then passes you around groups of men, inflicting on you repeated sexual and physical abuse.

Imagine your money, your passport, your phone, your family, your friends and your freedom snatched away from you, and every last shred of dignity sapped by violent, manipulative criminals working you to the bone, limiting your food intake and making you sleep eight to a room.

These things are happening all around us.

Whoever you are, reading this, I can make a few basic assump­tions about your life. You freely decided to buy the book, with your own hard-earned money. You’re maybe at home with a cup of tea

or a glass of wine – either of which you selected and poured your­self. You chose the brand, decided when and how you wanted to enjoy it, grabbing ten minutes on your own before you have to do the washing-up or check the kids’ homework. You might be reading this on the bus or train, commuting to or from work – perhaps in a career that makes your heart sing, perhaps in a job that drives you to distraction but pays the bills.

No matter what brought you to this book, to this moment, I’m guessing most of the decisions you made in the run-up to purchas­ing it and sitting down to read it were made by you, with no coercion or control, no psychological bullying or threats, and no fear of reprisal. No one is controlling your cash flow, your abil­ity to go to a shop or get online, no one is restricting your daily movements, or what you eat or drink, or how you travel. That is exactly how your life should be.

Yet in the twenty-first century there are victims of modern slavery hidden in our communities, in the shadows and in plain sight, for whom this kind of control is all they have come to know.

It’s their daily routine. It’s a waking nightmare. It’s their life.

If you’d told me ten years ago that I would write a book exposing the scale of slavery in Britain today, I would not have believed you. This may be a country with many flaws and faults, but slavery isn’t the kind of thing that goes on here, is it? That’s for ‘other countries’. The dodgy ones. Full of corruption and, you know, ‘foreigners’. The sort of place where Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) hold the real power, and where life is cheap, if not worthless. It doesn’t happen here.

It does.

Louise Hulland

Louise Hulland