Salvation Army works with Coronation Street on modern slavery plot

Actress Ruxandra Porojnicu speaks to a real-life survivor of modern slavery(Photo: The Salvation Army)

The Salvation Army has been working with the script editors of popular British soap Coronation Street on a modern slavery story line. 

The plot revolves around a character called "Alina" who is working in a nail bar on the cobbles. She is the love interest to fan favourite Seb but he becomes increasingly suspicious when he notices how scared she is of her boss. 

The storyline reflects an explosion in nail bars across the UK that has given rise to concerns around exploitation and slave labour.

Last year, the UK's first successful prosecution of modern slavery involving minors occurrded in Bath, with two people given prison sentences for using children trafficked from Vietnam as forced labour in nail bars.

Salvation Army specialists who have worked with real-life victims rescued from slavery in the UK have been advising on the script, and The Salvation Army's helpline will be displayed at the end of Friday's episode.

The Church is also running an awareness campaign around the storyline to help people identify the real-life Alinas working as slaves in the UK and across Europe. 

The campaign shows members of the public how to spot potential victims of slavery in places like nail salons, car washes and construction sites, and where to report suspected exploitation. 

Actress Ruxandra Porojnicu, who plays Alina in Coronation Street, said she was keen to raise awareness of the issue. 

"All these victims, like in Alina's case, can appear like they are living a normal life," she said.

"No one would notice they are going through such tough times and they need help unless we look more closely. Victims need to know there are so many people who care for them and support is available when they need it.

"I am keen to raise awareness about this worldwide problem and not be indifferent. We should all know about modern slavery.

"We should all spread awareness about subjects that have such a negative impact on people's life so that changes can be made and help provided. Some people are depending on us and our actions."

The Salvation Army warned that there is often a tragic human story behind cheap products and services, and that the continued demand for them only serves to keep victims trapped in slavery.

It is running a social media campaign designed to look like an advert for a product or service commonly built on slave labour.  When social media users click on the 'ad' they will instead be taken to a webpage telling the story of slavery victims who have received help from The Salvation army.  

The page will also provide information about how people can be more aware of the risks involved in their consumer choices. 

The Salvation Army UK and Ireland has held the Government contract to support adult victims of modern slavery across England and Wales since 2011. 

Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery at The Salvation Army, said that more than 8,000 victims have been helped in their journey to recovery since the Church was awarded the contract. 

"We want people to open their eyes and see that people are being forced to work as slaves across the UK," she said.

"People still don't believe that this is happening in this day and age and victims are too frightened to escape and ask for help because their traffickers will convince them that no one will help them. We need to break through this so that more people understand the reality of this horrific crime." 

In addition to the UK, the awareness-raising campaign is being run in over a dozen countries across Europe, including the Netherlands, Greece, Italy, Norway, Romania and Moldova.

"Trafficking impacts all of Europe," Major Betteridge continued.

"In many Eastern European countries people are being tricked into seemingly lucrative work in Western Europe, only to find themselves held against their will by debt and threats to themselves and their families back home.

"The Salvation Army has made combatting modern slavery a global priority and this campaign alongside our colleagues in Europe gives us a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of this important and devastating issue.

"We are also grateful to ITV for the responsible way in which they have worked with us to ensure that the story told is authentic and sensitive to the reality of the experiences of the thousands of people supported by The Salvation Army. Coronation Street has given us the opportunity to reach out and save more real life 'Alinas'."

Victims seeking help who have been trafficked to or within England and Wales can be referred to The Salvation Army through a confidential dedicated referral line 0300 303 8151 available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.