I join other speakers in thanking the Special Representative and Coordinator for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings for organising this meeting. The diverse attendance speaks to the importance of international cooperation and coordination and to the respect that the international anti-trafficking community has for the OSCE’S work in this area.
The focus of this event on migration routes is timely and topical. We have seen distressing scenes in the Mediterranean. A comprehensive response is needed that includes the targeting of the cynical criminal gangs that profit from this trade in human beings. We need to address the causes and not only the consequences of this trade, which means action in source and transit countries, both to tackle the traffickers, but also to address the root causes of migration, through development aid, humanitarian assistance, stemming human rights abuses and tackling conflict.
The UK government views trafficking in human beings as Modern Slavery and is committed to stamping out this abhorrent crime building on our strong track record in supporting victims and pursuing perpetrators . As a demonstration of the seriousness with which we approach this crime we have recently introduced a Modern Slavery Act - the first of its kind in Europe. We have also created the UK’s first ever Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner with a remit to ensure that modern slavery issues are tackled in a coordinated and effective manner.
The Act takes a comprehensive approach and will give law enforcement agencies the tools to tackle modern slavery, ensure that perpetrators can receive suitably severe sentences for these appalling crimes and enhance support and protection for victims. The Act also includes a world-leading provision to ensure that large businesses report annually on what they doing to stop modern slavery occurring in their supply chains.
But, legislation is just one part of the answer. The UK Government is also implementing a Modern Slavery Strategy that sets out the UK Government’s approach, detailing the work we expect from Government departments, agencies and partners in the UK and internationally.
The Strategy puts victims at the heart of everything that we do. It sets out how we will pursue the organised criminals and opportunistic individuals behind the modern day slave trade; protect vulnerable people by raising awareness in the hope of preventing them from becoming victims in the first place and enhance protection and support for victims.
Combating modern slavery is not of course only about Government departments and their agencies. Dedicated civil society organisations and charities ensure that victims receive the support and help they need in the UK and abroad. They have an essential role to play and we will only succeed by working together with them.
Mr Chairman, no country can ever be satisfied that they have done enough to deal with human trafficking and there can be no room for complacency. We welcome events such as this as an opportunity to adjust our responses by learning from international best practice.