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Jenny Gage, the Minister for Social Justice, is a Befriender at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre.

Detainees have often lived in the UK for several years, and have homes and families here. However, because they fall foul of the immigration authorities, they can be detained with no notice and taken to an Immigration Removal Centre miles from their homes. Their detention is for an unspecified period. Many are released on bail in due course, to await their hearings back in their homes. In the meantime, however, their family and working lives have been disrupted, with children needing to be cared for by relatives or taken into care. Not knowing how long they will be detained adds to the stress detainees experience.

Someone from the Befrienders' organisation will meet each new detainee as soon as possible after arrival, and help them to adjust. A befriender will then go in weekly to support a particular individual, simply as a caring friend. Many of the detainees are people of faith, often Christians, and they welcome someone who will pray for and with them.

Support is also provided for detainees at Immigration Hearings and Bail Hearings.

Slavery and people trafficking are rife in the UK and internationally. Indeed, people who find themselves in an Immigration Removal Centre may well have arrived in the UK as a victim. Jenny Gage met with the Chennai office of the International Justice Movement, a Christian organisation, in August 2019. Since then she has linked up with the office in London.

Their model, both in the UK and internationally, is two-fold: to rescue victims and restore them to a life free from slavery, and to bring criminals to justice, through influencing government policies, and ensuring laws are enforced.

Slavery is inextricably involved in what we eat and what we wear, it is endemic in everything we buy. That's why we support Fairtrade at Ely Cathedral.

The Clewer Initiative is the Church of England's dedicated project focusing on enabling churches and local communities to develop strategies to detect modern slavery in their local areas and to help provide victims with help, support and care.

We can all help by:

  • praying
  • buying Fairtrade or ethically sourced products as much as possible
  • knowing how to spot the signs
  • downloading and using the Safe Car Wash app
  • knowing how to refer a possible victim to those who can help - in the first place, phone the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 for support and advice, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111
  • sharing what we find out through the Clewer website