Student Reflection: Raising Awareness about Human Trafficking

MSW alumna and current doctoral student, Hlin Saethorsdottir, focuses her research on Human Trafficking. She currently resides in London where she has worked with unaccompanied minors, a population that is extremely vulnerable to trafficking. In her current job, Hlin works in safeguarding, where some of the cases have exploitation and trafficking elements.

Hlin Saethorsdottir, MSW, and Doctoral Student

Forced migration, including trafficking in persons (often called modern form of slavery) is a cause I am very passionate about. In 2012, I decided to move from Iceland to Albany to undertake my Masters in Social Work. The value of social work education is so much more than just the possibility of job security, as it gives you the opportunity to equip yourself with both knowledge and skills to make an impact, and change the world just a little bit towards a more equal world for all. As a Master’s student, I got the opportunity to co-create a syllabus and core curriculum on trafficking, which was offered as an elective in the summer of 2015. In 2014, I was accepted in to the Ph.D. program, which for me meant that I could have the opportunity to design my own research on trafficking. The purpose of my research is to explore Iceland’s response to trafficking, especially in terms of victims' rights and victims' opportunities to realize their rights.

In 2016, I decided to move to London with the hope of putting knowledge into practice. I was fortunate to be offered a job with a temporary government initiative that provided a safe house for unaccompanied minors that had been living in the notorious refugee camp in Calais, France. Then, in the spring 2017, I landed a permanent role on a children’s safeguarding team with the most diverse borough in London, in terms of race and ethnicity. Most of the cases are complex and multi-faceted, and some include elements of trafficking.

In between my job and research work, I try to take every opportunity to raise awareness of trafficking. In the spring 2017, I was selected to have a workshop on the matter at the International Federation of Social Worker European Conference. I am of the view that as social workers we have an obligation to address all forms of injustice. Victims rights are clearly outlined in international treaties, but unfortunately the practical response has often been poor and services inadequate or nonexistent. I believe social workers can greatly influence delivery of services to victims and make an impact in the fight against modern day slavery.