Retired Down barrister cycles 65 laps of Drumbeg daily to help stop human trafficking
A retired County Down barrister from Drumbeg is using peddle power to fight human trafficking.
After meeting survivors of human trafficking in Cambodia, retired barrister Nigel Quinn knew he wanted to help end this horrific abuse. Human trafficking not only happens around the world, but right here in Northern Ireland. So, for his 65th birthday, he decided to take on a remarkable challenge.
Nigel Quinn has always enjoyed a challenge. On the first day of lockdown in March 2020, he decided to cycle every day until lockdown lifted… a streak he kept up for 529 consecutive days, covering over 14,000 miles.
With his 65th birthday approaching this month, Nigel decided that a special challenge was in order – 65 laps of his village, Drumbeg, over the course of just one day, covering a total of 168 miles.
Nigel has already smashed his target of raising £6,500 through his journey, which will go towards protecting Ukrainian refugees on their own journeys towards safety.
Currently, women and children fleeing the crisis are facing the risk of being targeted by human traffickers, who make false offers of work or accommodation in order to trap them in exploitative situations.
Nigel first heard of the dangers faced by refugees while attending a talk in Belfast by anti-trafficking organisation International Justice Mission (IJM), whose Romanian team were at the Ukraine border within 24 hours of war breaking out, working to keep refugees safe.
Nigel said: “I want to raise awareness of the fact that over 40 million people around the world today are living in conditions of slavery. There are even people being exploited right here in Northern Ireland, as vulnerable individuals are trafficked within our borders as well as being brought here from many parts of the world.
“I believe that all people should be free from trafficking and exploitation… which is why I’ve chosen to get on my bike to raise money for this incredible cause.
“IJM has worked on cross-border trafficking cases in Europe, including the UK, for the past two years – and has seen the brutal reality of exploitation. For example, Antonia, was trafficked to the UK aged 19 after being promised work in a factory. When she arrived, she was forced into sexual exploitation, unable to leave or seek help.
“After eight months of extreme physical and sexual violence, she found an opportunity to phone her family in Romania, who notified authorities. The police were able to locate Antonia and bring her to safety – and to arrest her traffickers, who thanks to Antonia’s testimony were convicted in court.
“Now, Ukrainian refugees are facing similar risks – which is why I am taking on IJM’s Just Ride cycle challenge: fundraising to help IJM scale its protection efforts throughout Europe.”
Nigel came face-to-face with the reality of human trafficking on a trip to Cambodia in 2017, where he met with survivors who had been trafficked into the Thai fishing industry.
Trafficked workers on Thai fishing boats often face brutal violence, as well as extreme working conditions – with some reporting working up to 23 hours a day.
Seafood from Thailand is exported to the UK, meaning that the food we buy every day could have people trapped in slavery in its supply chains. IJM is working in South-East Asia and around the world to end this brutal abuse.
Hannah Elliot, Northern Ireland lead for IJM UK, said: ‘What an amazing effort from Nigel! Like Nigel, IJM wants to see a world where all vulnerable people are protected from trafficking and other forms of violence.
“We’re partnering with authorities all over the world to bring survivors to safety and support them as they rebuild their lives, as well as hold traffickers to account through the justice system. Thanks to the support of people like Nigel, we’ve seen reductions in slavery of up to 86% in places where we’ve worked.
“Together, we can stop traffickers in their tracks.”
(International Justice Mission is a global organisation that protects people in poverty from trafficking and other forms of violence. If, like Nigel, you’ve been inspired to get on your bike, find out more at IJMUK.org/JustRide.)