Shoppers on Church Street, Liverpool will this week to come face-to-face with an 11-foot gift box, which highlights the false promises made by people traffickers to people brought from their home country.
This week is Modern Slavery Week of Action and officers from Merseyside Police are taking part in a series of targeted operations aimed at disrupting the activities of people who engage in human trafficking and modern slavery, and rescuing victims. Two victims have already been located and are receiving support.
The gift box will be on display until Friday morning, and will be staffed by police and volunteers from the Salvation Army and the campaign group ‘Stop the Traffik’, who work closely with the United Nations.
The gift box is a walk-in art installation, which shows stories from victims showing the realities of being trafficked, which can include sexual exploitation, forced labour and organised street crime.
Visitors to Church Street will be able to walk inside the 11-foot high, brightly wrapped gift boxes. The gift boxes were first used at the London Olympics and this week's initiative follows its appearance at the Museum of Liverpool in May this year and previous work in 2015 at Liverpool John Lennon Airport by the force’s PVP unit, to raise awareness about the hidden and under-reported issues of honour-based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.
Detective Superintendent Mark Guinness from the force’s Major Crime Unit said the giant gift boxes would get people talking about the issue and enable the police to share information with potential victims.
He said: “Of the tens of thousands of people who are thought to be trafficked in and out of the country every year, only a small proportion of these cases are brought to the attention of the police and other agencies.
“We need to change that and one of the ways is by helping the victims themselves understand what is happening to them is wrong and can be prevented if they speak out. It is also important to raise awareness of this global issue amongst the general public and by having these interactive art installations thanks to Stop The Traffik campaign group and the UN, we will be able to educate people about how they can help.
"The force has officers who are specially trained to investigate these crimes with expertise and sensitivity and I would encourage anyone who is a victim or has information to find the courage to come forward and speak to us. Anyone affected by these issues or who has any information can call officers on 0151 777 4079."
Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “Slavery was abolished more than 180 years ago in this country. Yet we know it’s still happening today across the UK and here in Merseyside.
“Slavery’s hidden nature means it is difficult for us to ascertain the extent of the problem in our region, but it is an issue we all need to face.
“This GIFT box brings to life the awful reality of what may lie in store for vulnerable people who are lured by modern day slavers. It tells the true stories of real people who have been subjected to abuse, exploitation and violence.
“By bringing this GIFT box to Merseyside I hope that we can start a conversation, which in turn will raise awareness and understanding. We want to get people talking about this issue and we want them to know how to spot the tell-tale warning signs.
“We need the public’s help if we are to find and rescue vulnerable people who have been enslaved and this interactive art installation is a great tool in bringing this issue out into the open.”
If you are a victim of this type of crime visit www.victimcaremerseyside.org for advice on how to get help and report it.
For more information about the gift boxes and the United Nation's global campaign visit www.ungift.org and www.stopthetraffik.org
How to spot the warning signs
- PHYSICAL APPEARANCE - Victims may show signs of physical or psychological abuse, look malnourished or unkempt, or appear withdrawn
- ISOLATION - Victims may rarely be allowed to travel on their own, seem under the control, influence of others, rarely interact or appear unfamiliar with their neighbourhood or where they work
- POOR LIVING CONDITIONS - Victims may be living in dirty, cramped or overcrowded accommodation, and / or living and working at the same address.
- FEW OR NO PERSONAL EFFECTS - Victims may have no identification documents, have few personal possessions and always wear the same clothes day in day out. What clothes they do wear may not be suitable for their work
- RESTRICTED FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT - Victims have little opportunity to move freely and may have had their travel documents retained, e.g. passports
- UNUSUAL TRAVEL TIMES - They may be dropped off / collected for work on a regular basis either very early or late at night.
- RELUCTANT TO SEEK HELP - Victims may avoid eye contact, appear frightened or hesitant to talk to strangers and fear law enforcers for many reasons, such as not knowing who to trust or where to get help, fear of deportation, fear of violence to them or their family.
If you suspect Modern Slavery is happening, call Merseyside on 101. In an emergency, always call 999. You can also report your concerns to the Modern Slavery helpline 24/7 on 0800 0121 700*