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04 June 2014

Queen announces plans to tackle trafficking and slavery

Queen announces plans to tackle trafficking and slavery

In this week's Queen's Speech the government introduced the Modern Slavery Bill in the hopes of tackling human trafficking and slavery in the UK.

Despite William Wilberforce's long fought and successful battle to see the transatlantic slave trade banned, slavery remains a serious and growing problem in the UK.

In 2012 the UK Human Trafficking Centre identified 2,255 potential victims of human trafficking, an increase on the previous year. Some who have been trafficked over borders are enduring forced labour in order to pay the passage they thought would give them a better life. Women are being sexually exploited. And both men and women are being bought and sold. It can seem incomprehensible that such horrors are occurring here.

Recent news stories have highlighted the plight of some victims. A deaf girl from Pakistan was brought to the UK by a couple who kept her in a cellar where she was repeatedly raped. Another couple trafficked a 10-year-old girl to the UK and kept her as a servant for nearly a decade. And then there is the harrowing story of the three women imprisoned in a South London home for more than 30 years.

Of course slavery and trafficking is not just a problem in the UK. Globally it is estimated that there are more than 21 million people in slavery or being trafficked. This is more than at any other time in history. This must end.

As well as bringing together existing criminal offences relating to slavery into one piece of legislation, the bill will impose tougher penalties on those convicted of trafficking and strengthen powers on asset confiscation. It will also provide compensation to victims and greater protections by ensuring they do not face prosecution for crimes committed while in slavery. An anti-slavery commissioner will be introduced to see the new law is followed.

The Evangelical Alliance along with many organisations including member organisations CARE and The Salvation Army and International Justice Mission and Stop the Traffik have been working hard to see trafficking and slavery laws improved. We welcome parliament's efforts.

David Landrum, director of advocacy at the Alliance, said: "While this is a step in the right direction it does not go far enough. Once this bill has passed into law it is unlikely there we will get another chance to improve the legislation for a long time. That is why it is crucial to get it right while we have the chance."

MP Frank Field said: "For the Modern Slavery Bill not to contain measures to effectively counter slavery in companies' supply chains is a serious omission that parliament must do its best to rectify."

David added, "Currently the bill does not involve businesses and the Alliance along with others are keen to see the bill amended. We are in full support of Mr Field's comments and will strongly push for an obligation on businesses to be transparent about their supply chains so consumers can be confident slavery has not been used."

As the bill progresses through parliament the Alliance will also advocate for greater protections and support for victims as well as greater independence for the anti-slavery commissioner.

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Read a full briefing about the Queen's speech 2014