August 13, 2010 / 11:18 AM / 10 years ago

Scottish police eye sex slavery play at Fringe

EDINBURGH (Reuters) - Scotland’s police have their eye on a play on human trafficking staged at the Edinburgh Fringe festival to help spotlight the plight of young foreign women exploited as sex slaves.

“Fair Trade” follows the fate of two girls, one a pretty Albanian village girl and the other a penniless victim of war in a Darfur refugee camp, as they are conned into flying illegally to London with promises of the good life.

The play was originally co-written by two young women fresh out of drama school, Anna Holbek and Shelley Davenport, who had become part of a campaign against sex trafficking which started with a 2007 art installation in London’s Trafalgar Square.

One of the moving forces behind the campaign is the actress Emma Thompson, who encouraged Anna to write the play.

After a trial run in London in 2008, writer Kate Ferguson was brought in to polish the script ahead of this year’s appearance at the Fringe.

Anna plays the part of the Albanian girl Elena, while Sarah Amankwah takes the role of the Darfar refugee Samai. Their story is the real-life tale of two girls — their identities concealed — who agreed to relate their experiences to the play’s authors.

Along with the harrowing story of sexual slavery, the play also brings out the dilemma faced by police and immigration officials constrained by bureaucratic diktats who find the problem hard to deal with.

The girls are picked up as illegal immigrants and plead for understanding of their plight.

“I’m sorry, I’ve got to follow procedures. You’re here illegally. My hands are tied,” a policeman says.

Anna Holbek told Reuters she had talked to Detective Sergeant Sandra Jamieson of the human trafficking unit of the Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency (SCDEA).

She said Jamieson had shown an interest in possibly using the play to sensitize police officers to the issue.

“Increasing awareness among the police and other professionals about this issue is crucial if we are to identify victims, provide them with appropriate care and support, and ensure the perpetrators of this crime are punished,” Jamieson told Reuters by e-mail.

She said artists like those at the Fringe “have an ability to capture the raw voices and emotions of those victims, and could have a contribution to make here in Scotland long after the curtain on the festival has fallen.”

As the curtain falls, Elena has one chilling warning:

“The Olympics are coming to London soon, and imagine how many girls they’ll bring over then.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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