Gaz here, writing from Moldova where I arrived yesterday at our prevention programme (gladly unaffected by the latest blast of icelandic volcanic ash!) I am here with the team who work on the ESCAPE prevention magazine for youth, with its 3rd edition now close to completion.
I spoke today at a state school for older economic orphans. Most orphans here in Moldova are not the result of deceased parents and war, but of mass economic migration often involving both parents. One orphanage in the city had 74 young people. 73 of these were economic orphans.
I spoke to two classes (and two worlds): one class totally Russian speaking, dressed in Russian clothing, and the other a Romanian class with the same degree of cultural distinctive; the evidence of bygone eras of Soviet and Romanian rule.
I spoke to the dangers of migration and human trafficking across Europe and the realities of not so perfect western ideologies and life. We talked about the highs and lows of western culture and the UK and also that wherever there is need and people wanting to follow a dream, there are those whose personal success is derived from your suffering. So few of them knew about human trafficking and here in Moldova, of all places, is the worst for trafficking in Europe. It is important to let them know that many of their future peers are in the bondage of sexual slavery and look at how to avoid this.
I know the numbers. I know that 120,000 each year have been migrating, mostly illegally, and if illegally, generally at the hands of traffickers for sex or labour. I know too that 30,000 women and children have gone missing here in the last decade. But when I asked each class today who of them planned to migrate, I was still shocked to see all of them raise a hand without hesitation.
I realise even more now the importance of getting the ESCAPE prevention magazine into each and every hand. I witnessed first hand girls receiving them for the first time. I watched them reading pages about the dangers of travel and how to spot traffickers as well as how to survive and recover from domestic violence (which is prevalent here). I felt a small but significant sigh of relief that they had been armed with information. People who live in deprivation should still be allowed and encouraged to dream without fear of exploitation and a stolen life.