As someone who has been highlighting the issue of modern slavery in the past, I was delighted to read the Prime Minister’s article published this weekend in the Sunday Telegraph which laid out her commitment to wipe out the scourge of modern slavery from society, and indeed positioning the government to take an international lead to tackle this heinous industry. This follows on from last year’s Modern Slavery Act, co-sponsored by Mrs May, which was the first legislation of its kind in Europe and has succeeded in introducing tougher measures to target the traffickers themselves and provide protection and support for victims.
However, the Prime Minister appreciates that this is not the end of the issue and in her article she has announced the first government task force on modern slavery, bringing together departments from across government for regular meetings in Downing Street to continue the work against exploitation and servitude. This acknowledges that human trafficking is an issue which covers a raft of different parts of our system – immigration, justice, social services to name but a few.
I made a speech in June 2011 (which can be found here) which sets out my views on this most important matter, and indeed my thoughts regarding the problems in collating statistics and data to measure the scale of the issue. Over the past twelve months or so, I have submitted a number of written questions to the Home Office for their commentary and to remain informed of the figures relating to this often covert crime.
It is encouraging that the National Crime Agency in their latest annual report found that referrals to the National Referral Mechanism were up 40% on 2014, with more victims of human trafficking having been identified and offered support than previously. However, identifying the true number of those still trapped is still a difficult task.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to an international approach to tackle traffickers wherever they operate, not just in Britain, is a positive move and builds on the work the UK has done to place the elimination of modern slavery into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. I am a strong believer in the UK’s commitment to international aid and think it is a commendable move to use funds from the aid budget to create an International Modern Slavery Fund focusing on high-risk countries.
The government should look to build on the Prime Minister’s announcement over the rest of the Parliament, and indeed beyond, to bring this abhorrent practice to an end. As ever, I shall be following these developments with interest.