A community pulling together and standing up against a growing ill and stamping their feet to say ‘no, not in my neighbourhood’; marching to make the rest of Croydon aware of just what has been creeping up around them.
That’s what CCAT did on Saturday 28th September 2013 and just to make sure they didn’t go unnoticed – they did it in chains.
At 1200 hours, eight members of the Croydon Community Against Trafficking (CCAT) set off from a large supermarket in Purley to North End, Croydon, a four-mile walk dressed in black, tied in pairs and threes with red chains to attract attention and let residents know about the rising trend of trafficking in their area.
CCAT was set up by concerned citizens in 2005, who discovered that the crime of trafficking was taking place in their local area. CCAT became an ACT (Active Communities Against Trafficking) group of Stop The Traffik (STT), a UK NGO that campaigns to eliminate human trafficking and modern day slavery. ACT groups meet together regularly and work to make their street, village, town or city traffik-free by telling others. The Croydon group is seen as a model for other groups, and the team have consequently set up Your Community Against Human Trafficking (YCAHT) as their best practice model, which has been copied by several groups across London and further afield.
The dedicated membership regularly engage with the police and local community about the issue of trafficking; they write to newspapers and campaign for sex ads to be removed; gather intelligence on potential premises, which may be using trafficked victims in prostitution. They also organise events aimed at raising Croydon’s cognizance of trafficking as it is only when people know that they can actually care – once they care, they can let those that can do something about it, know. ‘’The police are going to react to what people complain about’’, says Anna Arthur, a CCAT volunteer co-ordinating the Saturday chain walk, ‘’what do people complain about? Rubbish on the streets, gun crime, knife crime’’. If a sizeable proportion of Croydon raised their concerns about trafficked girls living among their streets, there would be no other choice but to crack down.
This was the objective behind the Chain Walk. Bright red chained Croydonians, making their fellow South Londoners aware that Croydon is the third largest port for human trafficking in London. Unsurprisingly, the majority of passersby were unaware that this was happening right under their noses, but at the same time the chain gang were pleased that a growing number of residents had heard about the issue, a keen improvement to a few years before. The four-mile march brought some comical moments with tumbles, stunned faces, groupies, hecklers, inappropriate advances and confessions. However, along with the colourful interplay, the general feeling was that the group had reached out and the message was loud and clear: there are slaves in Croydon. This point was made true as on reaching the final destination – a stall set up amongst the hustling Saturday footfall of the town’s main shopping centre – many people wanted to hear about it and help.
If you’d like to find out more about Croydon Community Against Trafficking, visit www.theccat.com. If you’d like to find out about setting up an ACT group in your area, contact Stop the Traffik – and click on ‘Activity Near You’ (www.stopthetraffik.org).