Modern Slavery: The Battle Of Our Time

18/10/2016 17:58
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Mrs May has led the way in tackling Modern Slavery, but there's much more work to do.

The Prime Minister last week described human trafficking as 'barbaric evil'. Hard words, but not hard enough. No words are quite enough to describe the inhuman travesty that is modern slavery.

The cold, hard, shameful truth is that there are more slaves today than ever before in the entire history of mankind. Human trafficking is the biggest travesty of our age. It is happening in our country, in our towns, on our streets.

Every 30 seconds, someone becomes a victim of modern slavery, of whom only 1-2% of people are ever rescued.

The average age of a trafficking victim is just twelve years old. Innocent young children who should be at school during the week, and playing carefree with their friends on the weekend, are instead forced to work seven-day weeks in savage industries, such as the sex and drug trades.

Human trafficking is the fastest growing global crime. Its continued existence, at a far greater level than ever before, is the embarrassment of our age. It is our duty to do all that we can to stop it.

We cannot, should not, and I for one will not, rest until slavery is a thing of the past.

I am proud to see the UK is leading the way in this. Through the drive of the Government and fantastic charities, like Hope for Justice, awareness of modern slavery and prosecutions of traffickers is rising. More victims are being rescued as more people are being trained to spot the signs, with many also looking into what else they can do to play their part.

For me, the most important legacy of Theresa May's time as Home Secretary was her work on Modern Slavery. Her powerful article for the Sunday Times, 'Modern Slave Drivers, I'll End Your Evil Trade', turned out to be more than just words. She translated those words into strong and decisive action.

The clampdown on Modern Slavery that has come as a result of the Modern Slavery Act tells its own story. In its first year, we have seen a 40% increase in prosecutions. Increasing the severity of punishments for human traffickers was a sign to them that the United Kingdom will not stand for this. Raising awareness amongst professions and the wider public, as well as heavy backing for victim-support schemes, are all helping to slowly chip away at this widespread atrocity.

The Anti-Slavery Commissioner, appointed by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary, reported last week that far more people are still falling through the gaps than being caught. Too many crimes are still going unreported, too many traffickers are still getting away with it, and too many victims are still being denied justice. Work is being done, but weaknesses remain and those gaps need filling fast.

A few days ago the Prime Minister made clear that she was aware of this, reiterating her commitment to continuing to implement measures to further the work of the Modern Slavery Act. Creating a new UK Cabinet Taskforce with the sole purpose of tackling modern slavery, and a pledge to spend £33 million from the aid budget to help tackle the crime overseas, is a strong sign of our new Prime Minister's continuing dedication to what may be the battle of our time.

The United Kingdom is leading on this issue, but it will take an international effort to end it once and for all. Our Prime Minister needs to take her clear passion for stopping human trafficking to other nations, and if necessary pressure them into doing more. We need to work together, in a united effort, to abolish slavery once and for all. This is an international crime that needs an international response.

Many people often see slavery as one of those things that, 'Ah well, we will never be able to come up with a solution, we will never get everyone on board, we will never fully get rid of it.' For as long as we have that attitude we will not.

But, if we all play our part in building a world where it is clear we will not stand for this anymore. If we press forward united, steadfast in the faith that one day we can rid the world of this abominable evil. If we work together internationally to clamp down on the offenders and support the victims. Then, one day, we will confine slavery to the history books. Then, and only then, can we finally claim to be a free nation.

18th October is Anti-Slavery Day. Anti Slavery Day is a national day dedicated to raising awareness about human trafficking and modern slavery, bringing to the forefront the need to work together to eradicate all forms of slavery and human exploitation.