STEPHEN MUST STAY, and CHILDREN MUST BE PROTECTED FROM TRAFFICKIN

Please sign the petition to the Home Secretary to support Stephen’s appeal against the original decision to send him back to Vietnam. It is at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/allow-shildon-s-stephen-to-stay-in-uk?bucket=share, has been promoted by 38 Degrees and so far has 89,958 signatures.

Every Child Protected Against Trafficking, ECPAT, is using this case to highlight the awful problems around children being used as slaves in this way, and there is a Guardian article here too.

The least we can do in the UK is not return young people like Stephen back to the place where they have no family and in danger of being captured again.

One of our member writes :

He is a remarkable young man, not because what he has experienced, but because of what he is. He is graceful, intelligent and kind. Not at all angry, resentful or bitter, which many of us might have become, if we’d been he.

Stephen talked about his life at the November Durham Diocesan Synod.

He was born in Vietnam. His only surviving relative died when he was 8. He lived on the streets and survived as best he could. He was picked up by a criminal gang when he was 10 and at 16, trafficked, as a slave, to the UK. Here he was locked up, enslaved, in various different cannabis farms until the police busted the one where he was. He was fostered into a clergy family in Shildon. A life of abuse, fear, beatings, cruelty and isolation was transformed. His foster sister describes him as an incredible person, one of the kindest and most helpful, sympathetic and humble people she has ever met. He has reclaimed his life, had a basic education and become a member of a welcoming community. He has become a Christian, a factor which places him at risk of state persecution in Vietnam. He wants to be a chef.

Now he is 19 year old, Stephen is faced with the prospect of being returned to Vietnam, where he has no one and nothing. Like thousands of child victims of modern slavery, he needs long-term support to recover from abuse and rebuild his life.

The Home Secretary will decide his fate on 5th Feb. He wants to stay here, with his family, with the support he has and needs and where he will be a contributing member of our society. “He needs to stay in my family, a family who love and care about him. We can’t loose this case”, says his sister.