Action is urgently needed
Each week there is a new story hitting the headlines of slavery happening in Britain, not a far off land where it is often considered a by product of unstable governments. This is happening in Britain and it needs to be stamped out.
The recent case of three women allegedly kept imprisoned for 30 years in London, seventeen people rescued in Leeds who were forced to live in horrific conditions whilst receiving little if any pay, are all too present examples of modern day slavery.
In 2012 the Human Trafficking Centre, part of the National Crime Agency identified 2,255 potential victims of human trafficking - an increase of 178 (9%) from 2011.
Contemporary slavery takes many forms, and forced labour, human trafficking, debt bondage and child marriages are all forms of modern day slavery.
I believe new package of measures being proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May to tackle modern day slavery are needed and are an important step in combatting the growing problem in Britain. The draft Modern Slavery Bill aims to increase the maximum custodial sentence for offenders from 14 years to life. It would also introduce life sentences for offenders with prior convictions for serious sexual or violent crimes and create a new post of anti-slavery commissioner to hold law enforcement and other organisations to account.
I however also know there are a lot of other policies and work to be done to ensure trafficking is not only stopped but that the victims are supported and successfully integrated back into society. Survivors need to receive proper medical attention. They need to receive safe passage to their home country if they desire and survivors need to be educated. This includes training for job skills. It is also critically important that we require survivors to give evidence regarding their experience in order to receive state-funded education and job training.
Child survivors should not necessarily be placed in children's homes, they should be placed in safe and secure environments that protect the children, provide them with the social and medical support that they need, and connect them with other children. It is important that they be able to have as normal a childhood as possible. These children also need access to education and counseling to address the traumas that they have faced.
The legislation is sufficient. The focus now needs to be on training police, prosecutors and other members of the judicial system. The UK has made tremendous strides in this area, and we should work to ensure that this progress is further institutionalized. We particularly need to focus our training efforts on those who work protecting our borders, so that they are better able to identify situations where trafficked persona are entering the UK. However, the monetary penalties for individuals convicted under trafficking legislation, as well as mandate banks and other financial institutions to report strictly on cash deposits or withdrawals of £5,000 or more also needs to be addressed and legislation needs to be implemented that will police this and combat money laundering that is the by-product of modern day slavery.
British multinationals should be encouraged to have a high level function that oversees and monitors its supply chain, with an eye to where the products are manufactured and by whom. Too often slavery is used in the supply chain of global especially manufacturing organisations and it is simply ignored. Similar to the legislation enacted in California, large businesses should publically disclose the policies, if any, they have put in place to address human trafficking in their supply chains. Companies should also report annually the location of the factories they use to source products, as well as the pay scales for the employees at their locations and the working conditions.
As we enter 2014, I call on our security services, financial institutions and multinational companies to monitor, support and implement new policies that will see modern slavery abolished for good.