Chippenham creative agency Milk and Tweed has been working with a Bristol charity on a website to protect vulnerable Ukrainian refugees from human traffickers.
Milk & Tweed designed a logo and built the site in two weeks after being approached by Unseen, which campaigns against modern slavery and exploitation. Its 24-hour helpline had almost 8,000 contacts in 2020.
The site, Ukrainians Welcome, contains useful information in Ukrainian, Russian and English on everything about life in the UK from workers’ rights to finding family support to help refugees get assistance independently.
Head of communications Dominic Murphy said the charity approached the Chippenham agency to design and build the website after being impressed with the work it did on Unseen’s own website last year.
“We went to Milk & Tweed about this at the end of April and we had it up and running in May so I take my hat off to them. It was a really quick turnaround but they were fully on board with it,” he said.
“We wanted to get the site up quickly because we have become really concerned as an anti-trafficking organisation, as are most other human rights and anti-tricking organisations in the UK, that people will be exploited.
“When you have lots of vulnerable people on the move the exploiters move in. We’ve already had intelligence from the Ukraine border that there are traffickers hanging around and we want to make sure that people coming to the UK don’t get swept up into any kind of exploitative situation.”
He said the charity has started to get calls on its helpline from Ukrainian people and European trafficking expert La Strada International produced a report based on interviews with refugees warning the situation is becoming more serious.
It said many refugees are using social media to find help, revealing information about their location and situation and traffickers and abusers are using the platforms to target potential victims to work in the sex industry and other vulnerable job sectors in Europe, where labour shortages are high and working conditions are often poor for foreigners.
“A typical scenario is that the traffickers offer someone a lift or lend them some money and all of a sudden there’s interest they can’t pay on the money and they are bundled off to London or somewhere and they are working in a brothel,” said Mr Murphy.
“That can happen all of the time anyway but when you have a large number of people on the move it is just going to multiply.”
Last autumn Milk & Tweed redesigned the charity’s website, combining two existing sites.
“The site is our shop window and it is hugely important. Modern slavery is something that people often don’t get so the web site has got to keep people there, explain the issues and get them doing things,” said Mr Murphy.
Milk & Tweed creative director Jake Jeffries said the agency was pleased to help turn the Ukraine website around quickly. “When we worked with Unseen on their website we became aware just how many people become victims of modern slavery so when we were approached to design this site we leapt at the chance.
““Like everyone we have all been deeply saddened by the images and news coming out from the Ukraine, so obviously we were all very keen to help in any way we possibly could.
“If this site keeps vulnerable people out of the clutches of traffickers or exploiters then that’s a great thing. We’re delighted that Unseen has put its faith in our skilled team.”
Unseen is now campaigning for the major mobile telecoms providers to provide a text to refugees as they enter the country, much as telecoms providers in Europe do when holidaymakers go abroad. “We think it should have a message along the lines of ‘stay safe, don’t give your passport to anyone, etc’ with an emergency number and the website address,” said Mr Murphy.
“It has been supported by MPs Iain Duncan Smith and Peter Bone and the idea has gone to ministers so we are starting to get political momentum.”