Princess Eugenie visits Wisbech to learn more about district’s efforts to tackle modern slavery
Fenland’s ongoing fight against modern slavery was recognised this week during a royal visit to Wisbech.
As part of her work with her charity The Anti-Slavery Collective, HRH Princess Eugenie, and fellow founder Julia de Boinville, met with partners the Rosmini Centre, Fenland District Council, the police, and the Ferry Project to find out more about the hands-on work they’re doing to tackle the exploitation and trafficking of vulnerable workers, and support victims and survivors.
Princess Eugenie also fulfilled a wish to visit the Wisbech and Fenland Museum to learn about the history of the anti-slavery movement and the prominent eighteenth-century abolitionist Thomas Clarkson. She also heard about the museum’s Articles for Change project, which has been shining a light on modern slavery and promoting Clarkson’s work to a wider audience, not least with holding a successful online anti-slavery conference opened by Britain’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton in February.
The last Monday's visit came two years after the Princess expressed an interest in visiting Wisbech during a conference in London in 2019, which shared the findings of a modern slavery research project between the Rosmini Centre and Fenland District Council. The visit was due to take place last year but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anita Grodkiewicz, manager of the Rosmini Centre, said it was a pleasure to finally welcome the Princess to the town.
“Modern day slavery is a hidden crime and is sadly happening in Fenland,” she said. “It can affect anyone in society, with victims being exploited in a number of ways including the trafficking of people, forced labour, servitude, and slavery.
“Partners and community groups on the frontline are best equipped to take action against criminals, protect those who may be at risk and keep our communities safe. Princess Eugenie was keen to learn about the preventative work we’re doing here in Fenland, as well as the training being provided to help more people help potential victims now and in the future.”
The Princess began her visit at the Rosmini Centre, where she met staff, volunteers, and service users, as well as Fenland District Council and police representatives.
Rosmini trustee John McGill spoke to the Princess about why the centre was developed and how it meets local needs, and David Bailey, the council’s traveller and diversity manager, spoke about the connection between migration and modern slavery, and the work of partners and the Diverse Communities Forum to support migrant communities, tackle exploitation and promote integration and cohesion.
Afterwards, she visited the Ferry Project, which provides shelter and support to homeless people locally and victims fleeing modern day slavery. She met staff who highlighted some of the local cases that have been supported to freedom, and discussed with Keith Smith, director of the Ferry Project, how she could help support the work being done.
She also learned about the multi-agency task force Operation Pheasant, which targets rogue landlords and illegal gangmasters who exploit migrant workers in Fenland.
Finally, Princess Eugenie visited the Wisbech and Fenland Museum, where she saw the campaign chest belonging to Wisbech-born anti-slavery activist Thomas Clarkson. She also met former Thomas Clarkson Academy students, Anna Ivaskevica and Gvidas Grikietis, who co-curated the exhibition Anti-Slavery Campaigns as part of the museum’s Articles for Change project; and congratulated them on winning a regional Museum Young Volunteer Award.
The museum’s project officer Sarah Coleman said: “It was great to meet HRH Princess Eugenie and to introduce the collection and the work we’ve been doing to raise awareness of contemporary forms of slavery.”
Princess Eugenie was also accompanied by other members of The Anti-Slavery Collective, which aims to involve those such as survivors, law enforcement agencies and academics to raise awareness of modern slavery as a global epidemic.