Charities and campaigners at the forefront of efforts to end modern slavery in the UK and overseas have come together today (1 August 2016) at a roundtable hosted by the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, and the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland.
The meeting, also attended by Minister for Vulnerability, Safeguarding and Countering Extremism, Sarah Newton, highlighted the UK’s commitment to ending slavery and to set out new measures and support announced by the Prime Minister including:
- a new taskforce led by the Prime Minister to oversee government action to end slavery
- a review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) of the policing response to slavery
- £33.5 million in official development assistance funding to tackle the issue in countries from which the UK sees a high number of victims
The new support comes one year on from the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act which increased penalties for offenders, protected victims from criminalisation, and created the role of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
As well as the new measures announced, an independent report by barrister Caroline Haughey highlights good progress in the first year of the act - 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted in 2015 and there was a 40% rise in the number of victims referred for support - and identifies opportunities to do more.
Following the roundtable, the Home Secretary had the opportunity to meet a survivor of modern slavery: ‘J’ who was trafficked from Asia to the UK and held for 2 years by her captors.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said:
While we can never truly understand the suffering experienced by victims of modern slavery, we will continue to take action to end this abhorrent crime.
I will work with the Prime Minister and all those campaigners and charities at the roundtable to ensure this government delivers for every victim both here and overseas.
The harrowing experiences of victims like J will only intensify the government’s actions to end modern slavery.
Those charities that attended the roundtable included Barnados, the Salvation Army, Medaille Trust, Human Trafficking Foundation, Anti-Slavery International, Hestia and ECPAT UK.
J decided to come to the UK to study and to have a better future and was exploited by a woman from her own community.
Once in London, J wanted to improve her language skills and decided to do so by volunteering in a store-café owned by a woman from her own community within London. J had met this woman at the temple, and she trusted her dearly. For 2 years she was forced to work for 14 hours a day with only 2 toilet breaks and no lunch or dinner time. She was not paid and was forced to miss days at college in order to man the store.
The owner of the store used to mistreat her and the other ‘employees’, threatening them and their families to ensure that they did not report it to the police. Furthermore, the lady withheld the use of heating during the winter and did not allow the ‘employees’ to eat or drink during ‘working’ hours. In August 2014, a police officer from the British Transport Police managed to befriend J. The police referred the case to the Salvation Army, who then referred the case to Hestia. J was then welcomed into Hestia’s safe-house accommodation and feels she has finally found some peace.