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Event showed opposition to slavery and trafficking
Street acts sought to show what people go through. Here Anja Meinhardt goes through a scene. Picture: OX62773 Jon Lewis
CAMPAIGNERS opposed to sex trafficking halted hundreds of shoppers in Oxford’s Cornmarket with flash-mob performances.
Actors played the victims of trafficking yesterday on two makeshift stages to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day.
Oxford Community Against Trafficking (Oxcat) organised the event and highlighted the Bullfinch trial, in which seven men were this year convicted of abusing six young victims from the city and sentenced to a total of 95 years in jail.
Oxfordshire MEP Catherine Bearder took the chance to launch a campaign calling for the Government to employ an anti-trafficking commissioner, with more than 40 people signing a petition within one hour.
Between 12.30pm to 1.30pm, in four performances, campaigners acted out what victims of trafficking might experience.
Wolvercote resident Humeid Albannai, 28, stopped to watch a performance showing a Moldavian mum smuggled into the UK before being treated as a slave and abused.
He said: “It is really interesting. I’m actually doing a PhD in human trafficking, but most people do not know anything about it.
“It is a hidden crime and victims might be living in fear and smuggled, afraid to tell the police.
“It happens everywhere, and you can be pretty sure it is happening in Oxford too.”
At Carfax Tower, actor Anja Meinhardt played a woman who was persuaded to come to the UK before being locked up and raped.
She said: “We are trying to raise awareness and encourage people to open their eyes.
“If everyone in the community opens their eyes you could prevent a lot.
“It is unfortunate how much of it goes on under our noses, such as the Bullfinch offences in Oxford which had been going on for eight or nine years.”
Mrs Bearder said: “We try to do this every year in Cornmarket and it always draws in a crowd — the message is always well received and reported.
The Government has signed up to the convention on trafficking, which commits it to bringing forward an independent commissioner for better sentencing of the criminals and to support the victim.”
According to the latest figures, there was a total of 1,186 victims of human trafficking in the UK last year, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.
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