Cover Image: Stolen Lives

Stolen Lives

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Member Reviews

I’m going to be honest, non-fiction, especially politics based non fiction, isn’t normally something I would pick up and read but this caught my eye and I decided it was time to branch out a little. I am so glad I did!

When I think of slavery my immediate thoughts take me back to years ago and what I learnt in history lessons and whilst I was aware that slavery was still happening today, the book really showed me just how it can vary and be happening right in front of you without you even noticing. That nail bar or car wash that people frequently use, I would never have said the people working there were “slaves” (obviously not all of them are) but you’ll be surprised just how many are actually being exploited.

I was worried the book was going to be heavily loaded with too much political language but it wasn’t. Louise did a fantastic job of storytelling all whilst providing the essential facts. We learn of ‘Elena’, an Albanian girl and the horrific way in which she was trafficked and the many hoops she had to go through after escaping. We are given details on government legislation, interviews with police officers and the amazing work that these charity organisations do for the victims.

It made me angry in parts at the way these victims have to suffer, not just at being trafficked, but afterwards, and the struggle they go through to get the correct support. It shines a light on the absolutely amazing work that charities do, especially the Salvation Army. Again I wasn’t aware of just how much they did until I read this book!

Overall this book will open your eyes to modern slavery, will start those all important conversations that are needed to raise awareness and like me now, will have you looking at every car wash and nail bar wondering if the employees are being treated correctly.

This is such an important subject, with a story that needs to be told and a book that needs to be read!
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There were a staggering 136,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK in 2016. 
Louise Hulland has written a piece of detailed research looking at every aspect of slavery. Surprisingly the largest proportion of slaves are British, followed by Albanians and Vietnamese people. 
Hulland follows the case of Elena, a young Albanian woman trying to stay in the UK with her young child after being exploited and forced into prostitution. Her story really brings home the reality of a system stacked against the victim.
This is an impressive overview of the politics of trying to outlaw slavery and the organisations trying to make a difference - from the Co-op to the Salvation Army.
It will really make you think about your role in it too - do you use a nail bar or a car wash and think about the employees? Do you look at anti-slavery policies of big companies and whether they are signed up to do their bit or paying lip service? 
Recommended - especially if you are interested in reading about the whole system and why slavery is big business.
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I read this book in a few hours and could not put it down. Nor I have to say sometimes did I want to read further. This is harrowing inhumanity laid bare.
The author is an established journalist but this is not just an extended article. It burrows under the skin of those people involved. The bad ones - and there are many, and the good ones helping (fewer but more memorable).
We have all rubbed up against modern slavery. I've been to a cheap car wash. Did I consider how much the men cleaning my car earned? Did I wonder where they went and slept or what they ate in the evening when the car wash closed? No I didn't. But then nor do local authorities care really to investigate them or nail bars or (unless Covid comes to call) upon the exploited agricultural workers picking our fruit and veg.  
Lots of agencies are involved and for once we can congratulate a Tory Prime Minister for at least bringing the issue into the public domain. Theresa May (previously Home Secretary) had seen the evidence and pursued the idea of the UK bringing in the Modern Slavery Act 2015. She receives plaudits from those through the system and names like Frank Field MP and the work of charities such as Unseen, the Salvation Army and some aspects of the justice system (most notably persistent lawyers and a notable QC) have built upon the ideal to search out those exploiting not only adults (40.3 million across the world, 1 in 4 a child including 136,000 in UK.
But I read this on the day the issue of migrants crossing the English Channel from France was highlighted by the discovery of the dead body of a 16 year old boy found drowned on a beach near Calais. This summer the issue has once again put into the media storm against a Brexit backdrop the need to stop 'them' coming over here.
Foreigners. Yes. Migrants. Yes. Trafficked individuals heading for sexual or financial exploitation in  the UK. Well hadn't really thought of that.  
Leaving those victims aside there are the many British citizens used as modern slaves. Children increasingly through digital means for sex, county lines with drugs, Cleaners, prostitutes maybe even the cleaner coming into your office as you leave work (working from home won't excuse that ignorance)
Is this a book that leaves its mark? Definitely. But am I left despairing of my inability to do anything about it? Increasingly so. When many here in the UK want to 'close our eyes to the outside world', 'bring back control and close borders' and lock them all away out of sight is there any awareness about this suffering? Yes  there are many described in these pages from the Coop to Hope for Justice and others and above all thank goodness for this author and this book.
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Stolen Lives is a meticulously researched book on Human Trafficking & Slavery in the UK. The author has cleverly weaved facts alongside true life stories which makes for fascinating, if heartbreaking reading. 

Throughout the story we learn about a young Albanian girl, Elena who was duped by her then boyfriend into becoming a sex worker. She escaped and made it to London, pregnant and alone. The author has been at her side alongside the various organisations which offer their help freely to those in need during Elena's often painful, heartbreaking and very stressful journey.

The book really makes you more aware of things such as, are the girls in the nail bars there because they enjoy the work? Likewise, I'll never drive past a car washing forecourt without thinking are these men victims of modern slavery. A sobering thought.  

A must read.
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Stolen Lives by Louise Hulland is an in-depth look into slavery and trafficking in Britain and elsewhere across the world through the eyes of the victims and those who help them and hunt and prosecute the perpetrators. For many people it will be quite an eye-opener to learn what goes on this country beneath the radar as people are exploited, from those brought here from overseas to the victims of the County Lines gangs it's a horrifying and disturbing story. Equally awful is the way the ones who escape are treated, many find themselves in detention centres treated as illegal immigrants. when they've been coerced here and undergone honorific ordeals. Louise Hulland meets and follows the progress of Elena, a young Romanian woman forced into the sex industry in Belgium by a supposed boyfriend who escapes,when very pregnant, by jumping into the back of  a truck, in the full knowledge of a helpful driver, and finds herself dropped off in London. Alone and afraid in an unknown city we meet Elena again as she tries to make a life for herself and her Baby helped by some amazing people, and battling a less helpful Home Office who want to send her back to Albania.
Some of the stories make the reader wonder what is wrong with humanity as tales of depravity and abuse are told, thankfully that's balanced by some truly incredible people from various organisations who care and offer support to the victims of various forms of trafficking.
Much of the book tells how the various systems to help victims of slavery came about and were passed into law . I was surprised, and impressed,to read about how involved the Salvation Army  are in this field and possibly most surprised by   organisations like the Co Op and HSBC who are very supportive and pro-active.
This is a difficult read in places but uplifting in others when some really inspiring and dedicated people talk of their efforts to get legislation passed,help victims and bring the matter to the public's attention. This is a crime very often committed in plain sight  with trafficked people working in Takeaways,Nail Bars , in the fields as people drive past obliviously,factories and car washes as well as in the less public sex industry.
I think most will be surprised by the sheer scale of what is going on and how the victims ,if they escape,are then often treated as criminals by the authorities, the Vietnamese for example trafficked here, forced under threat to run a cannabis farm then  jailed when they're caught there by the Police.
An interesting and important book.

Thanks to Louise Hulland, Sandstone Press and Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.
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Stolen Lives is a very powerful and thought-provoking look at modern slavery and the effect it has.  It's a highly relevant and topical read.
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