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Churches urged to open as emergency reception centres for survivors of modern slavery

Exploited agricultural workers

Churches located near the A55 corridor are being asked to act as emergency reception centres to support the work in North Wales to tackle modern slavery.

The call, in the Diocese of St Asaph’s magazine Teulu Asaph, is made by the coordinator of Transform, Alison Ussery, who is working with the voluntary councils across North Wales to set up a new charity to combat human trafficking.

North Wales, with its port at Holyhead, is seen as an easy access point for criminals wanting to traffic people into the UK. In her article in Teulu Asaph, Alison said: “It is important that churches and people of faith make a stand, and do something about this terrible crime.

“Partnership and collaborative working are very important. By standing together this horrible crime can be fought and individuals can be saved from horrific abuse.”

Alison is looking for churches to be made available at short notice to act as local reception centres to provide sanctuary and safety for survivors who are often brainwashed to mistrust police and other authorities.

She added: “At the moment we have to transport survivors, found in North Wales, to suitable facilities in Liverpool and Manchester but it would be far kinder and more efficient to process survivors close to where they are found, in the safety of a church or chapel.

“For centuries, churches have been places of sanctuary and now is the time to continue that tradition to meet the needs of vulnerable individuals finding themselves victims of criminal gangs.”

Alison’s call has the backing of the Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron who has spoken out on this issue previously. Bishop Gregory said: “It’s hard to appreciate the scale of the problem in North Wales as the issue is largely invisible and people don’t like to think of such activity happening in a cosy, friendly place like North Wales. But it is there and is significant enough to have come to the attention of the church community.

“It’s important that everyone is aware of the reality of modern slavery and that we work to raise awareness within congregations for the signs and indicators of such activity.”

As well as coverage on modern slavery, Teulu Asaph announces a special event to take place in St Asaph Cathedral on 7 July, as part of the Amnesty International I Welcome campaign. The Colwyn Bay Group of Amnesty International UK is organising Refugees: Reflections in words and music to raise awareness of the plight of refugees past and present. It will feature speakers, music, poetry and an exhibition, building on the local North Wales history of being hospitable to those seeking sanctuary.

Speakers for the event include the Bishop of St Asaph, the Director of Amnesty UK, Kate Allen, a Rwandan refugee and a Syrian refugee. Poetry comes from Mererid Hopwood and music from Helen Wyn Pari (Harp), Mary Hofman (Violin), Cytgan Clwyd and the combined choirs of Ysgols Llanddulas and Cystennin. There will be exhibitions of AIUK – Refugees from 1947 onwards, the Rhyl Belgian Refugee Project of WW1, Ysgol Eirias Park AIUK Youth Group, Freedom from Torture and AIUK Colwyn Bay Group.

Teulu Asaph is a 16-page, free magazine, published every two months. It is circulated to more than 7,000 people across the Diocese of St Asaph. The April/May edition will be available in churches from 2 April and takes the theme of sanctuary. Teulu Asaph is available on line at http://stasaph.churchinwales.org.uk/news/teuluasaph/