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May seeks to lead world in tackling modern slavery

05 August 2016


Framing St Peter’s: Teresa May at a news conference in Rome last week with the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi

Framing St Peter’s: Teresa May at a news conference in Rome last week with the Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi

A PLEDGE to spend £33 million tackling human trafficking from “high-risk countries” is among the commitments made by the Prime Minister this week, in a bid to lead the world in defeating modern slavery.

It is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of slavery in the UK. In her article in The Daily Telegraph, Mrs May gave the examples of a seven-year-old rescued in North London, and a woman forced into prostitution and systematically raped in a high-street brothel.

Mrs May will hold regular inter-departmental meetings in Downing Street as part of a first-ever government task force on modern slavery. An independent review of the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act found that, in 2015, 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted, and that there was a need for greater awareness of the crimes, training for those in the criminal-justice system, and better support for victims.

The review also identified a “patchy” response by police: between April 2015 and March 2016, six of the 43 forces did not record a single modern-slavery crime. Mrs May will commission an inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary.

The task force will focus on collaboration with international partners. “Rather than chasing individual criminals in Britain as they are reported, we need a radically new, comprehensive approach to defeating this vile and systematic international business model, at its source and in transit,” Mrs May wrote.

The director of the Anglican Centre in Rome, Archbishop David Moxon, welcomed the announcement as being consistent with the joint declaration to abolish slavery signed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Pope, and other faith leaders, in 2014. It was a “cause for much thanksgiving that one of her first acts as Prime Minister . . . should make such a priority in an area agreed by the world faiths to be an urgent and critical cause for moral and political action”.

The Bishop of Derby, Dr Alistair Redfern, who played a significant part in bringing about the Modern Slavery Act, continues to work with the Prime Minister on the issue, and locally through the Derbyshire Modern Slavery Partnership. On Wednesday he said that Mrs May’s leadership on the issue had been “impressive” and that the latest news would encourage those working in the field. His chaplain, Philippa Rowen, said this week that it was “a reality in our society, and something that we all collude in”. After welcoming Mrs May’s commitment, she said that the Church could provide a “unique service . . . that of loving the stranger”. She described how the Church in Derby was hosting awareness events, fund-raising for victims, and producing “emergency packs” for them. It is now considering how to create a safe space for victims.

The campaign coalition Stop the Traffik also welcomed the news. It highlighted the recent launch of the STOP app, which enables anybody who sees, knows, or has heard something that might be human trafficking to report their concerns online.

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