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PLIGHT OF KIDS SOLD TO SLAVERY; Drama on a problem we thought had gone away.

OLD Etonian Damian Lewis has spent so long playing Americans that he finds himself blending in effortlessly when he's on the other side of the pond.

The flame-haired actor, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in the Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanksproduced Band Of Brothers in 2001, stars in Stolen - a one-off feature-length BBC drama with human trafficking as its murky backdrop.

It follows three different children - an African girl, a Vietnamese boy and a Russian boy - who have been brought to the UK as domestic servants and manual labourers.

Damian's character, Detective Inspector Anthony Carter, is new to the trafficking unit, having relocated with his wife and daughter to work on the cases.

"It's really a story about displacement and the overwhelming scale of the problem," says Lewis.

Our modern-day slave trade is hard to ignore. In 2007, an estimated 2.5 million people were in forced labour globally as a result of trafficking, with 10% of those in industrialised nations.

"I wasn't aware of the extent of the problem, so I was attracted to it because I thought I had something interesting to say," says Lewis, who turned 40 in February.

"There was a particularly arresting image at the end of the script where a little girl and her father are playing that game of looking at aeroplanes in the sky and guessing where they're going.

"That image is really turned on its head when you start to examine just quite how many trafficked people there are coming out of the United Kingdom and other Western countries by aeroplane.

"It stopped me in my tracks and, for a few days after that, every time I saw an aeroplane in the sky, I thought about who was being trafficked rather than which Greek island they were off to."

The African girl in the drama becomes a domestic slave, while the Russian boy works for a pittance in a sandwich factory and the Vietnamese boy is enslaved in a marijuana factory.

"He never sees daylight. He's locked up and held captive while he manages this marijuana crop in this very innocuous, peacefullooking suburban street. That's the most striking thing about trafficking, it goes on under our noses and it might be going on in the house next door."

While Lewis admits he didn't have time to meet any emancipated domestic servants, he did spend time with the police trafficking unit and heard some extraordinary stories.

"It's difficult to prosecute because these people are often brought into the country legally with the correct documentation.

"They're promised an education and work, but very quickly realise the cost of the fare is a debt they have to work off. This isn't explained to them when they're brought over.

"They're financial slaves and women particularly quickly find themselves in prostitution, they're fed with drugs, and it's very difficult for them to break that cycle."

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Damian Lewis who plays DI Anthony Carter
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 2, 2011
Words:493
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