The Medaille Trust is a charity which supports men, women and children who have been freed from human trafficking. It has been operating for eleven years and now provides safe houses throughout the country for the victims of 21st century slavery.
The Trust has recently appointed a new Diocesan Representative for the Leeds Diocese: Liz Andrew. She is starting work locally to raise awareness of the subject of human trafficking and modern slavery and of the work of the Medaille Trust.
It seems astonishing that slavery is still an urgent current issue but it is Big Business. People trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude are all lucrative and fast growing forms of international crime and it is estimated that a minimum of 21 million people are enslaved throughout the world today.
The experiences of the victims often include violence- physical, psychological, emotional, sexual. They have little or no control over their own lives. They often end up in a foreign country where they do not speak the language and where they have no understanding of their rights. Their passports and travel documents are confiscated by traffickers and they live in fear of being identified as ‘illegals’ – and therefore deported or imprisoned.
Once the police rescue victims from trafficking, they need to begin the process of putting their shattered lives together. It is here the Medaille Trust comes in.
With 108 beds in eleven houses throughout the country, it is the largest provider of victim support in England and has helped over 1000 victims since starting in 2006.
As well as providing them with a safe roof over their heads, the Trust offers victims physical and psychological help. It provides practical compassion, supplying:
• First and foremost a refuge and then the nuts and bolts of everyday life such as clothing, toiletries, food.
• Victims of trafficking are often scarred, both physically and psychologically. The Trust provides counselling and therapeutic services and often interpreters and translators.
• Victims need assistance with providing statements to the police so that the criminals who have been involved in trafficking can be brought to justice.
• And victims need assistance in knowing where to go next so the Trust helps them with the often baffling process of repatriation or integration into the UK.
Funding for the Medaille’s work comes partly from the Government who provide for just over 6 weeks of accommodation. However, it can often take more than 6 weeks for victims, who are likely still to feel disoriented and bewildered, to try and work out what to do with the rest of their lives. The Trust is keen not simply to abandon them after the six week period but to offer them the time and support they actually need.
The Medaille Board is made up of Clergy, Religious & laity all with a clear Catholic focus and is pleased at Pope Francis’s great interest in the fight against trafficking and his call for action. Many of the safe houses have been made available by the religious and the clergy.
Liz would be delighted to come along to parish communities and talk some more about the work of the trust. The sorts of things she could do are:
• Speak at Sunday Masses or to midweek parish groups
• Ask people to accept delivery of the Medaille magazine
• Attend events and fairs to promote the work of the Trust and to sell craft items made by potential and recovering victims of trafficking in Nairobi, Kenya
• Develop relationships which flourish in other dioceses with groups such as the Knights of St Columba, Catholic Womens’ League, Catenians and others.
Liz can be contacted by email at email@example.com