In a clear signal of a return to Victorian values of the undeserving poor and salvation through faith, the Home Office is terminating its funding for the fabulous Poppy Project for trafficked women and instead awarding a contract to the Salvation Army, the evangelical Christian missionaries known mainly for their ability to blow trumpets at Christmas. At the same time, it seems the nature of the contract and the level of support for victims of trafficking is being reduced to a bare bones service without facilities for proper counselling.
The Guardian report this news is drawn from goes on to describe details of just one Poppy Project case which would never have come to light without the fantastic service provided by the project. Substantial compensation was awarded by the Home Office.
A quick visit to the Sally Army website is rather revealing. ‘Why does the Salvation Army do what it does?’ you may ask yourself. Helpfully, the answer is provided:
Called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, The Salvation Army United Kingdom Territory with the Republic of Ireland exists to save souls, grow saints, and serve suffering humanity.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we will be a Spirit-filled, radical growing movement with a burning desire to lead people into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, actively serve the community, and fight for social justice.
Presumably the whole purpose of bidding for the contract was therefore to lead trafficking victims into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Major Anne Read is in charge of trafficking at the Salvation Army and is quoted as saying:
“Working with and on behalf of people who are trafficked has been part of The Salvation Army’s mission since it began but today the most vulnerable people in our world continue to be exploited and drawn into what is, effectively, modern-day slavery! The Salvation Army wants not only to reduce human trafficking and to restore abused women but also to respond practically to the needs. It is a huge task but in God’s name, we are determined to succeed.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice has put out a press release:
“The immigration minister has said that the government is taking positive steps to ensure it remains a world leader in the fight against human trafficking.”
This is not exactly the first announcement from the Government which leaves women significantly worse off. Almost unbelievably, The Guardian quotes a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice as saying that part of the reason for awarding the contract to the Sally Army was because they were offering to broaden the service to include male victims of trafficking. There undoubtedly are male victims of trafficking — mainly forced or indentured labour — and they get very little attention, but that is not a reason to divert and dilute the funding that was previously provided for female victims of sexual trafficking and exploitation, award it to Christian missionaries and thereby destroy the skill base built up by the Poppy Project over the last few years.
I have no doubt that trafficking victims will suffer as a consequence.