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19 February 2014

Increase in trafficking victims identified shows need for strong Modern Slavery Bill

Increase in trafficking victims identified shows need for strong Modern Slavery Bill

More than 1,700 people were identified in 2013 as potential victims of human trafficking in the latest figures from the National Crime Agency (NCA). With an increase of 47 per cent on the previous year the figures also show a much bigger rise in the number of children thought to have been trafficked for sexual purposes.

Fifty six minors from the UK were likely victims of sex trafficking, more than double the previous level. The number of children from outside the UK also rose, with Vietnam the most common country of origin. The data does not show whether they were trafficked out of the UK or internally.

Figures don't reflect the true scale of trafficking

Even with the increased level of reporting, the government recognised that the new numbers probably did not reflect the scale of the issue with many other victims of trafficking not found by the system.

In 2013, the National Referral Mechanism (a government initiated system for authorities and charities to refer potential victims of trafficking to) referred 1,746 people from 112 different countries. Two thirds of them were women and around a quarter were children.

People are trafficked for a variety of reason, with sexual exploitation and forced labour among the most common. The NCA considers that increased awareness of the reporting system contributed to the rise, and more remained to be done to ensure more victims were detected and cared for.

Modern Slavery Bill to tackle trafficking

The government have committed to introducing new measures to tackle human trafficking with a draft modern slavery bill currently under discussion. Likely to enter into law later this year, the proposed bill draws together aspects of legislation relating to human trafficking currently found in various different laws. It will also bring in stronger penalties for those found guilty of human trafficking.

Home Office minister Karen Bradley commented on the planned legislations: "The bill will send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up."

Campaign calls

The Evangelical Alliance has joined with many other organisations working against trafficking to welcome the bill's proposals but has also called on it to be strengthened to be as effective as it can be in tackling the scourge of modern day slavery. Together, these fifteen organisations issued a response at the end of last year when the government announced the bill proposals, and asked for the bill to be altered in three key areas:

  • The government have adopted proposals to introduce a modern slavery commissioner who can hold the government to account on their actions to tackle slavery. This change is valuable but to be fully effective the commissioner must be independent of government, given powers and able to speak with freedom.
  • The bill currently does not involve businesses. The white paper which accompanied the draft bill only suggested a continuation of the current voluntary system, but a strong bill would place an obligation on companies to be transparent about their supply chains so customers can have confidence slavery has not been used.
  • The bill needs to put care of victims at the centre of its operation. This is the stated intent of the bill, but more needs to be done to ensure victims are properly identified, that they receive immediate support and assistance and the circumstances of their victimisation are fully investigated. Victims should not be prosecuted for crimes they may have committed while under duress and the control of another.

If improved in these three areas the bill will be a vital step in stamping out slavery in our country over two hundred years after the transatlantic slave trade was abolished.

Many of the organisations we're working with provide resources for churches to help them learn more about the issues, find out what the Bible has to say and pray wisely around the subject. Why don't you find out what resources are available and sign up to our campaign email which will keep you up to date on all developments as the Modern Slavery Bill enters parliament.