Slavery total

by Mark Rowe

The UK has between 10 and 13 thousand potential victims of slavery. That estimate of ‘modern slavery’ is in a strategy document published by the Home Office. The Modern Slavery Strategy sets out action across government departments, agencies and law enforcement in the UK and internationally to tackle slavery, besides the legislative measures being introduced through the Modern Slavery Bill.

The strategy builds on the frameworks used to counter terrorism and fight organised crime.

Home Secretary Theresa May, pictured, said: “The first step to eradicating the scourge of modern slavery is acknowledging and confronting its existence. The estimated scale of the problem in modern Britain is shocking and these new figures starkly reinforce the case for urgent action. That is why I have introduced a Modern Slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe. But I have always been clear that legislation is only part of the answer.

“The law must be rigorously enforced and we need wide-ranging activity. This strategy sets out the government’s approach which puts victims at the heart of everything we do. Everyone must play their part if we are to consign slavery to history where it belongs.”

In a recent speech, Mrs May set out that the proposed law will encourage businesses to make sure that supply chains for goods and services sold in the UK are not tainted by slavery. She said: “We know that the supply chains of many companies are often long, complex and have an international reach. Many businesses are already taking important steps to ensure that their supply chains are slavery free. This measure will make those steps clear so that consumers, share-holders and campaigners can understand what action is being taken.”

The Government adds that it’s working to tackle international modern slavery crime at source by working with law enforcement, civil society organisations and governments overseas. This will include an annual identification of priority countries, which will include both those from which significant numbers of victims are trafficked to the UK, as well as other countries that suffer disproportionately from slavery, and plans for each. While many victims identified in this country are foreign nationals, the strategy takes into account that vulnerable British adults and children are also being systematically preyed upon by traffickers and slave drivers. The National Crime Agency estimated that the UK was the third most common country of origin for victims identified in 2013.

The research, led by the Home Office’s Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Bernard Silverman, was conducted to establish a better understanding of the scale of crime and gather an improved intelligence picture to influence the action needed. It includes what the authorities term a ‘dark figure’ of victims who have not come to their attention.

Professor Silverman said: “Modern slavery is very often deeply hidden and so it is a great challenge to assess its scale. The data collected is inevitably incomplete and, in addition, has to be very carefully handled because of its sensitivity. I very much hope that we will be able to build on these results and this approach to help tackle this issue, not just in this country but worldwide.”

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