Enslaved In Chelsea

Something terrible happened to me this weekend. I watched Made in Chelsea, and against all my better judgment, I enjoyed it. This (somehow) Bafta-winning structured reality show follows the lives of “real”, seemingly unemployed high-fliers in South West London as they go for endless cocktails and talk about love and, er… that’s it.

First impressions: why was Louise ever with Spencer? Why does anyone like Jamie? Why do they insist on calling each other “boi”?

Second impressions: anyone watching this who doesn’t realise it’s completely made up must get a very strange impression of life in Chelsea. I’ve been there, and people do seem to have jobs, in the main. Having said that, Chelsea has always been synonymous with affluence and sophistication – certainly nothing as shocking or dirty as human trafficking.

And yet, here we have a story about six arrests and nine rescued women, following raids at 13 addresses including some in affluent, sophisticated Chelsea. To anyone who still turns a blind eye to the idea that a leafy, middle-class neighbourhood could harbour such horrors, this should be a wake-up call.

This raid was the first that took place under the European Communities Against Trafficking (ECAT) Project, of which STOP THE TRAFFIK is a key partner. This two-year project aims to bring agencies and countries together across Europe to raise awareness of and fight human trafficking.

Our role is to work in the London Boroughs of the City of Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea, to mobilise the communities and get people talking about this issue so that’s it out in the open. We are looking for volunteers who are looking to learn about trafficking and teach others, and we are putting on a Community Roadshow on 22nd June – if you’re keen see here.

The important message to take home from this story though, is this: “Don’t be oblivious.” Just because a neighbourhood looks nice and well-off, that is absolutely no guarantee that it is free of trafficking. We need to start conversations in the home and at our workplaces, so that everyone can be aware.

Maybe the Made In Chelsea cast could take the lead? I can’t imagine that conversation going down too well with the producers.

“Mate, I literally slept with a prostitute last night.”

“Lad! Epic.”

“She told me she was promised work as a receptionist in London, but that when she got here her documents were confiscated and she was forced to work as a prostitute under the threat that her family would be targeted if she refused.”

*Awkward pause*

“Bro, that’s heavy.”

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