Anti-slavery coalition calls for Modern Slavery Bill to be strengthened
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A coalition comprising 15 leading anti-slavery organisations, including the Evangelical Alliance, welcomes the Modern Slavery Bill but calls for it to be strengthened to be effective and contribute to a reduction in trafficking and slavery.
The call comes as the government issues their draft bill and Frank Field MP publishes his evidence review including an estimate there are 10,000 victims of slavery in the UK.
The coalition of anti-slavery groups published a briefing paper today calling on churches to take up the work of 18th century abolitionists: “The transatlantic slave trade was banned in 1807 and slavery was abolished across the British Empire in 1834, yet it is still with us today. Children are sold into slavery to pay family debts; people pay for passage, only to be trafficked over borders and find forced labour conditions rather than freedom ... this must end.”
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: “For evangelicals this is unfinished business; we've been fighting slavery for hundreds of years, and we are still at it today. This bill needs to live up to its promise. It has the potential to tackle modern slavery but the government needs listen to the campaign groups in order to achieve that aim. Together as organisations motivated by our Christian faith we call on the government to act and strengthen the bill so it can bring freedom to many caught in slavery.”
Churches and Christians were active in campaigning against the transatlantic slave trade, and they are again today. This coalition is calling on churches to meet with their parliamentary representatives and urge them to take a strong and uncompromising three-prong stance against all shades and forms of modern day slavery when the bill comes up for debate at Westminster. Frank Field MP’s evidence review also proposed similar measures to improve the draft bill which will be considered as it begins its parliamentary passage.
Specifically, the coalition wants the government to:
- Increase the focus on victims to unsure that they are properly identified, that they are able to receive immediate support and assistance, that the circumstances of their victimisation are fully investigated and that they are not prosecuted for crimes they may have committed while under duress and the control of others.
- Appoint a strong and independent anti-slavery commissioner who must be accountable to parliament and be able to speak across all parties, give a voice to the victims, provide strategic leadership to combat modern-day slavery and have the power to launch inquiries, publish findings and hold the culpable to account. The draft bill’s proposals in this area are welcome but need greater clarity over the post’s independence from government.
- Bring greater transparency in the supply chain legislation, by requiring businesses, each year, to make public information on measures taken to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains and business practices. The draft bill only commits to a voluntary system which is not good enough.
Nola Leach, chief executive of CARE, commented: “This is a key moment in Britain’s fight against human trafficking and slavery. The government must seize this opportunity to set a new standard in the care and protection of survivors. A bill without victims at its heart will be only a half measure. Together, we must act to support the vulnerable and expose those who exploit them.”
Terry Tennens, executive director of International Justice Mission UK, said: “From extensive international experience, IJM has learned that holding institutions designed for security and protection accountable, is a highly effective way of protecting the vulnerable from violence and exploitation. An independent anti-slavery commissioner is of vital importance in winning the battle in eradicating modern slavery in the UK”.
Kate Garbers, co-founder of Unseen, commented: "Tackling the issue of modern slavery is a complex task and we need to be better equipped in this fight. This cannot be solved by one organisation, but we all have a part to play. This is a great example of different agencies working together to support a very important bill."
Major Anne Read, anti-trafficking response co-ordinator for The Salvation Army, said: "The Salvation Army is keen to join with all those who are calling on government to make every possible effort to eradicate the evil trade in human beings and bring an end to the abuse and exploitation of the children, women and men who are the victims of modern-day slavery."
Ben Cooley, chief executive officer of Hope for Justice, commented: "The Modern Slavery Bill is a strong signal to traffickers that we won't tolerate their terrible trade in human lives. Today, we must also be the voice of victims so we're calling on the Church to help make sure that victim protection is at the heart the final bill."
, Human Trafficking
, Modern Slavery
, Positive Change