Envision Grads lead the fight against Human Trafficking in Birmingham

A night of powerful cinema and informative discussion tackle Modern Day Slavery

The Envision Grad Action Team organised an evening of independent films, spoken word performances and a panel debate all geared towards raising awareness of the issue of Human Trafficking in our city. The panel included James Behan, Head of Operations at the UK Human Trafficking Centre and Superintendent Tim Bacon, who heads up the Human Trafficking department of West Midlands Police.

Modern Day Slavery is a practice that thrives in the shadows. The Grad Action Team were determined to raise awareness amongst ordinary members of the public so that everyone can spot the signs.

The short films explored the depth of the issue, bringing to life true stories of child exploitation, sexual exploitation and forced criminality based on real-life case studies. One film, The Trip, focussed on the issue of illegal cannabis farms that are being found right across Birmingham. As recently as January this year, two large-scale operations were raided in Erdington, with the panellists admitting it was playing a huge part in the illegal activities of Human Trafficking.

Another film, Let's Talk About Sex, told the story a young Latvian woman who was trafficked to Ireland and forced into prostitution. Sexual exploitation of vulnerable people is a big issue in Birmingham. Nine suspected brothels were raided by West Midlands police on 14 October last year in a major operation to identify and protect victims of human trafficking who have been forced into prostitution. Addresses in Bordesley Green, Hay Mills, Acocks Green, Sheldon and Alum Rock were all targeted by around 40 police officers. 

It is often an unreported, unseen crime. The people who see these crimes are the community - the mothers, the fathers, the next door neighbours. This whole operation was led from one piece of intelligence given to us by a member of the public who never had to make a statement.

West Midlands Police, Operation Sentinel

The issue has also been in the mainstream media with a story on Channel 4 show Benefits Street highlighting the plight of Romanian workers brought to the UK with the promise of a better future for their families. They travelled here thinking that they would earn £40 for eight hours work picking beans. They ended up living in poverty working 17 hour days for £10 whilst a criminal gang took their profits. Some of them fled the house in fear of the gang only to end up sleeping rough in London.

Over a three-month period, a group of dedicated young people came together, balanced their priorities, and pushed themselves to produce an impactful event. Represetatives from Unchosen, the charity that raises awareness of Human Trafficking through films, had strong praise for the Grad Action Team.

We thought last night was excellent - the team have so much to be proud of. It was great going to such an interesting and unique event with so many creative ideas.

Camilla Brown, Unchosen

They promoted the event on local radio station Unity FM, Birmingham's most popular arts and culture blog Created in Birmingham and were rated as a "hidden gem" on the Birmingham Mail events page.

The team also publicised the event through dedicated Facebook and Twitter feeds.

Tim Knappett, Envision Project Co-ordinator said 

To see these Envision students take action on this important issue shows that we have some very passionate, intelligent and switched on young people in our city. We have seen an increase in the amount of young people wanting to explore and act on this issue, which is really inspiring.

The event was a sell-out with diverse members of the public represented in the audience. With representatives from Birmingham & Solihull Women's Aid and Unchosen informing the public on the issue through detailed "How To Respond" Packs, the night had a big impact on everyone involved.

Tonight was amazing and I'm really proud of us all! This event makes me want to do more work like this and organise more events to raise awareness for important issue

Naznin Choudhury, Grad Action Team