Single-file march against modern slavery to take place today in Preston

A woman from Fulwood has organised a walk to raise more awareness about modern slavery, supported by the A21 movement which aims to tackle the problem globally.

Saturday, 16th October 2021, 4:55 am

It was when she saw a shocking and heartbreaking demonstration at her church that Elise Johns decided she wanted to do something to help raise awareness about modern slavery.

A fellow member of her church, at Fulwood Free Methodist, slept in a small tent in the church car park for a week to highlight the shocking nature of conditions that many victims live in in the UK.

As part of the A21 organisation's mission to abolish modern slavery, local people are encouraged to host local marches at their nearby towns or cities and are given the resources to do so.

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Organiser Elise is a member of Fulwood Free Methodist Church

Today's march will set off from Preston Minster at 11:30 am and will walk through Winkley Square, Avenham Park and back up Friargate towards the market and Harris Museum.

Elise, from Fulwood, said: "I have never done anything like this before, I just went on to the website and applied to can host a walk. I thought it was important to try and make people more aware of the issue and how modern slavery goes on locally.

"It is to raise an understanding in what to look for and the signs of modern slavery as its not a very well known issue and I didn't know much about it. Like many, I assumed slavery was abolished in 19th century until a few years ago.

"A21 reach out to people and I decided I wanted to try and do something as it is still a prevalent crime that often goes unreported. It is important to speak up for those who can't for themselves."

The march will take place today in Preston. Photo by A21

The latest local figures from the Home Office revealed there was a rise in modern slavery cases referred to Lancashire Constabulary, with 153 recorded in 2020, 18 more than the 135 recorded in 2019.

They included 86 children – equating to around 56 per cent of all referrals.

And anti-slavery charity Unseen also warned of a potential increase in victims following the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the UK's economic downturn has created more vulnerable people who could be at risk of exploitation.

Modern slavery can involve domestic servitude, forced labour, sexual or criminal exploitation.

Unseen said the closure of recognised slavery hotspots – such as car washes and nail bars – during lockdown periods in the UK meant potential victims were less visible during the pandemic, when referrals linked to adults fell nationally.

Walks organised by A21 will take place in hundreds of cities in dozens of countries across six continents, aiming to raise awareness for the millions who remain enslaved across the globe.

Participants will be walking in single-file lines, through busy intersections and city centres to raise awareness.

A21’s UK Country Manager said: “Here in the UK, local communities have rallied together to take local action and to be part of a global solution in the fight against human trafficking.

"We know these walks will increase awareness and education about the realities of modern-day slavery, and as awareness spreads through our neighbourhoods and in communities around the world, vulnerabilities will decrease.

As education increases, so will identification and restoration efforts for the millions of people who are being exploited and enslaved across the world.”

“The fallout from COVID-19 has required a diversion of resources across the globe, allowing traffickers to operate even more in the dark, making the need for public awareness and education about new online tactics even greater,” said Christine Caine, A21’s Co-Founder.

“That’s why Walk For Freedom is more important than ever -- because there’s power in gathering together, in showing up in force, and shedding light on this injustice that is all too often hidden in plain sight.’”

More information is available at the Walk for Freedom Preston page on Facebook or on the official website.

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