Press release

PM seeks stronger co-operation with Vietnam to stop modern slavery as new measures come into force

David Cameron will seek to work more closely with the Vietnamese government to combat human trafficking as he visits Vietnam.

The Prime Minister will seek to strengthen existing co-operation with the Vietnamese to combat human trafficking when he becomes the first British Prime Minister to visit Vietnam today.

As part of the government’s efforts to lead the global fight to stop the modern slavery trade, the UK wants to do more with Vietnam – a priority source country – to prevent individuals from being exploited and to provide support for victims. This would build on work already underway between the National Crime Agency and Vietnamese law enforcement authorities to disrupt the criminal networks behind this abhorrent trade.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, will lead a fact-finding mission to Vietnam this autumn to identify what more the UK can do and to start talks on a formal Memorandum of Understanding that would provide the foundation for enhanced co-operation between both countries.

The government will also offer additional support for trafficking victims returned to Vietnam. This could include:

  • funding an additional shelter for survivors of trafficking, particularly women or children
  • greater assistance for resource centres that provide information and peer support for those are seeking to reintegrate into Vietnamese society after being trafficked, and help to prevent people being trafficked in the first place
  • wider awareness-raising activities on trafficking and modern slavery, particularly in provinces with high incidences of trafficking, like Nghe An

The diplomatic efforts come as the government prepares to step up efforts at home to end the modern slavery trade. A raft of new measures enshrined in the Modern Slavery Act will come into force on Friday including trafficking reparation orders which encourage the courts to use seized assets to compensate victims and prevention orders to ensure that those who pose a risk of committing modern slavery offences cannot work in relevant fields, such as with children or as gangmasters.

The government will also announce today that from October it will force companies with a turnover of £36 million or more to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement. This measure is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and will cover all large businesses who do business in the UK and have supply chains elsewhere in the world, for example South East Asia. In this statement a business must describe the steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of their supply chains or their own business, or they must disclose that they have taken no such steps.

Before arriving in Hanoi today, the Prime Minister said:

The scourge of modern slavery has no place in today’s society and I am proud of all that Britain is doing to wipe it out. Later this week, new measures will come into force in the UK to provide greater protection and compensation for victims and to make sure that those responsible face tougher sanctions. But there is still much more to do.

It is shocking that of thousands Vietnamese children in the UK are being used for profit by criminal gangs and that dozens more children are estimated to arrive on our shores every month. That’s why it’s so important that we work with Vietnam to identify what more we can do to tackle this issue together. I’m delighted that the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, has agreed to visit Vietnam later this year to look at what practical support and training we can provide. And we will fund a second shelter for child victims of trafficking and returnees to ensure they get the care and support they need as they reintegrate.

From October, we will also require all businesses with a £36 million turnover or above to disclose what they are doing to ensure their business and supply chains are slavery free. This measure is one of the first of its kind in the world and it will be a huge step forward, introducing greater accountability on business for the condition of their supply chains.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland said:

I am very pleased that the Prime Minister has rightly recognised the trafficking of Vietnamese children and adults to the UK as a high priority issue and I welcome his continued commitment to ensuring the UK leads the fight against modern slavery.

Modern slavery is often international organised crime, and it can only be combated through strong partnerships between source, transit and destinations countries. A new Memorandum of Understanding will act as a concrete indication of the commitment of the British and Vietnamese governments to work closely together to tackle this terrible abuse of human lives.

I look forward to visiting Vietnam in the autumn and engaging positively with the Vietnamese authorities, the British Embassy and civil society groups. My focus will be on how to maximise opportunities for strategic collaboration, including on law enforcement partnerships, reintegration of survivors and crucially improved efforts to prevent these crimes from ever occurring in the first place, through programmes in the rural areas from where many vulnerable Vietnamese children and adults are targeted by the traffickers.

I am also very clear that key responsibilities lie with authorities in the UK, and I will be prioritising work here to ensure an improved response. Vietnamese criminal gangs operating across the UK are ruthlessly exploiting Vietnamese children in multiple ways to maximise the profit that can be gained from them. This includes being exploited in forced labour in cannabis factories and nail bars, as well as an increasingly diverse range of exploitative activities, as the gangs move into other areas of crime.

Existing co-operation with Vietnam on trafficking

This includes:

  • co-operation between National Crime Agency and Home Office liaison officers based in country with Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security to share intelligence and expertise and to help identify, investigate and disrupt the criminal gangs that engage in trafficking and people smuggling, reducing their ability to successfully target the UK
  • a number of projects to address push factors and improve protection for victims – for example, since 2013 we have:
    • provided direct support to 110 victims of trafficking and vulnerable returnees, helping them to rebuild their lives and reducing the risk of repeat illegal migration or trafficking to the UK
    • delivered Human Trafficking Intervention and Awareness Training to more than 210 Vietnamese first responders, and more than 2000 Vietnamese school children in high risk provinces, helping prevent trafficking and irregular migration to the UK
    • funded construction of the Lao Cai Compassion House, a shelter for female and child victims of trafficking and returnees, providing support to 76 victims since opening in July 2013
    • trained more than 100 Vietnamese immigration officers, improving law enforcement capacity to identify, investigate and disrupt the criminal gangs behind trafficking and people smuggling

Modern slavery: background information

  1. The Home Office Chief Scientific Adviser has estimated that in 2013 there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK.
  2. Vietnam ranks in the top 5 source countries for victims of modern slavery alongside Albania, Nigeria, Romania and the UK.
  3. 42% of potential victims from Vietnam were children and the majority of Vietnamese children reported labour exploitation.
  4. Estimates suggest there are over 12,000 companies whose turnover exceed the £36 million threshold.
  5. £36 million is the threshold set in the Companies Act to determine the size of a large company.