Debbie Ariyo OBE: Chief Executive, AFRUCA

Debbie Ariyo is Chief Executive of AFRUCA, a UK charity she founded in 2001 to address child safeguarding and child trafficking issues in African diaspora communities and provide support services for children and families and rehabilitate those affected. A former UK civil servant, she holds an Executive Master degree in Public Administration from the London School of Economics and Political Science, a Master degree in Urban Policy from the University of North London and a Bachelor degree in French and Education from the University of Benin, Nigeria.

Debbie chairs the BME Anti-Slavery Network (BASNET) which she founded in 2019 to help promote racial equity, diversity and inclusion in the UK anti-trafficking sector.

A noted expert in Safeguarding Children, Debbie has specialist expertise in addressing socio-cultural factors affecting the protection and safeguarding of children of Black and African origins in the UK and Europe. She is a specialist in forced migration and human trafficking and has vast experience of designing and implementing diaspora anti-trafficking engagement programmes and service provision for those who have lived experience of these issues.  She works in different capacities as a researcher, an advocate, a court expert witness, a trainer, a newspaper columnist, a philanthropist and a public speaker.

Debbie has served in many advisory and non-executive role. She is an Advisory Board Member of the UK Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre and former Interim Chair of the Centre for Expertise for BAME Children and Young People. In June 2022, she was appointed a Honorary Research Fellow at St Mary’s University Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse . She served as a non-Executive Board Member of the defunct UK Independent Safeguarding Authority and as Trustee of Children England. Debbie also served as Chair of the children’s charity KEEN London. She was a Trustee of the Africa Europe Diaspora Development Platform based in Brussels.  She is a member of Manchester City Council Children Board. She is an Advisory Board Member of the Journal of Modern Slavery based in the US.

In 2020, Debbie established a private initiative for indigent pupils in Nigeria to access education through the provision of scholarships and financial support.

In March 2019, Debbie was appointed a Churchill Fellow and conducted research exploring Community Engagement Models in the Protection of Child Victims of Trafficking in Ghana and Thailand. Her research report provides a range of recommendations to help inform and improve UK intervention on Child Trafficking and Modern Slavery in relation to diaspora and black and minority ethnic communities. She started the UK BME Anti-Slavery Network (BASNET) as an outcome of this.

Debbie was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in June 2011 for her work with children and families.

Debbie is a great lover of African art and theatre, studies Yoruba history, enjoys classical music and is a fan of Fela, the Nigerian Afro-beats maestro. She enjoys travelling, exploring the hidden gems in different places.