• The Publishing Post

Sandstone Press’ Charity Partnership with Stolen Lives

by Avneet Bains and Verity Stuart


Sandstone Press, an independent Scottish publisher, has announced its partnership with the anti-slavery charity Unseen in the lead up to the publication of Stolen Lives: Human Trafficking and Slavery in Britain Today by Louise Hulland, a Sony Award winning journalist, TV and radio presenter and documentary maker. Since being founded in 2008, Unseen has helped to support survivors, equip partners and has made efforts to bring about systematic change in the fight against modern slavery.


Louise Hulland’s Stolen Lives: Human Trafficking and Slavery in Britain Today, is committed to re-examining Britain’s relationship with slavery and trafficking, showing us what we can do to make a difference. Published by Sandstone Press, £2 of every copy pre-ordered online is being donated to Unseen.


With 136,000 people in the UK in some form of slavery, and many still hidden, generating $120 billion for criminal organisations, the publication of Hulland’s book feels more pertinent now than ever before.


Hearing from victims who discuss their personal experiences to the very people who work on the front line, Hulland’s Stolen Lives aims to give the reader a full sense of what modern slavery and human trafficking really is in 21st century Britain.


From the beginning, she addresses the reader, asking them to think of the privilege they have to pursue and do what they like. She then poses the thought-provoking notion that not everyone has this choice. Not everyone has their free will. There are still people to this day, hidden in plain sight, that are suffering. 


Exploited. Disillusioned. Enslaved.


In twenty-one chapters, Hulland breaks down the current state of British anti-slavery practices, bringing her own expertise after ten years of research and involvement with organisations and victims of this heinous crime. 


The strand which acts as the core narrative of the book is the story of ‘Elena’, who, just several years ago, was a university student from a rural village in Albania. Hulland recounts her inspiring and moving experience that brought her to the UK through their series of meetings across six chapters, acting as the driving force of the book.


What I found moving was her own involvement and experience in helping Elena secure her NRM and Asylum status in Britain, that she, as an investigative journalist, felt somewhat perplexed with documents that Elena – who spoke and understood minimal English – had to complete for her appeal to stay in the UK. This conjured such a vivid image of the long, heart-wrenching process that victims endure, and the uncertainty and miscommunications they face which can make their recovery much harder. 


Throughout the book, we also hear first-hand accounts from the police, advisors and organisations who help to combat this growing problem. In Chapter 3, we are introduced to Bernie Gravett; it was this chapter that, as a reader who had only ever heard murmurs of ‘slavery in Britain’, was very insightful. From the different types of trafficking which involve networks from “Hackney to Vietnam” and Britain’s role as a destination country, Hulland is able to effectively convey Gravett’s knowledge from his work as a police officer to his role now as a leading anti-trafficking expert.


The points that he and many others make, such as the Salvation Army – who help victims of modern slavery – echo one another: being a victim can be secondary to the foreign identity and ‘othering’ of victims in light of Brexit and calls for tighter immigration control. 


While the Modern Slavery Act (2015) has helped to bring this issue to the forefront in 21st century Britain and propelled the country as a pioneer of anti-slavery and anti-trafficking, a lot is still left to be desired. Whilst provisions have been made through the countless NGOs and non-profits which spearhead the support and aftercare of these victims, adult victims are left in a precarious position with strict guidelines on who can be defined as a victim on ‘reasonable’ and ‘conclusive’ grounds by the NRM.


By highlighting these issues, the Home Office’s bias of reducing immigration, the lack of actual prosecutions under the 2015 Act and the scale of slavery and trafficking within Britain, Hulland’s exploration highlights what is being done and what is lacking from the government’s response. Her work looking into the emotional wellbeing and the aftercare of victims, and what small steps can be taken to identify modern slavery within businesses in her later chapters, was eye opening.


While this work is very much Hulland's labour of love, it is a piece which aims to give a voice to those (in a safe, and trusting environment) who wish to share their stories and provide their perspectives as victims, including Elena, empowering her to share her story, hopes and dreams in the penultimate chapter. 


And it is through this work that Hulland, Sandstone Press and Unseen are exemplifying how working together can bring change and how publishers can use their publications to aid intellectual, political and social emancipation.