There are more people in slavery than ever before. One victim is one too many and tragically right now more than 30 million people are enslaved around the world according to anti-trafficking movement Walk Free. Approximately 80 per cent are women and girls.
And it’s happening on our own back door. In the UK there are far more victims than previously thought. The Home Office recently reported that ther are possibly between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery in the UK. Despite the transatlantic slave trade being banned in 1807 largely in part to the commitment of William Wilberforce and others in the Clapham Group.
Children are sold into slavery to pay family debts; people pay for passage to safer shores, only to be trafficked over borders and find forced labour conditions rather than freedom. Others are forced to work under inhuman conditions and sexual exploitation is a weapon of repression.
Human trafficking is the fastest growing crime and currently the second largest source of illegal crime behind drugs.
Given this tragic and appalling reality it is encouraging that the government chose to prioritise passing new laws in the form of the Modern Slavery Act which became law earlier this year.
This is the result of many thousands of voices calling for an end to slavery and trafficking in the UK. It is hugely encouraging that the government listened and acted.
Now more than ever, the UK needs good laws and strong measures around slavery and human trafficking to make sure victims receive the support and care they need and that those responsible for these atrocious crimes are brought to justice.
The Evangelical Alliance welcomed this law and view it as a positive step in the right direction. During its passage through parliament we strongly advocated for improvements. In particular better support for victims, greater independence for the newly appointed Anti-Slavery Commissioner and a requirement for businesses to prove their supply chains are slavery free.
We joined a coalition of other organisations including Unseen, the CORE coalition and War on Want to specifically ask the government to include an amendment on transparent supply chains. This was successful and the new law includes this requirement.
While it’s great news the government included this crucial amendment which tackles slavery and human trafficking at the core, the law could be stronger and we are working with others to encourage the government to continue working towards the strong measures needed to successfully tackle slavery and trafficking.
Every person deserves to live a life of freedom. The UK has a proud history as a leader on abolition and we need to continue in that tradition and fight for the rights of those who can’t speak for themselves.