A NEW project that seeks to get churchgoers to look out for signs of modern slavery in their communities has been launched this week, as new statistics revealed the number of victims of slavery has increased by at least 300 per cent in the past five years.
The project, the Clewer Initiative, will train people in churches to identify signs of exploitation, at places such as car washes or building sites, and to support victims.
It has been backed by the the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Prime Minister, who described as it as a “barbaric crime”.
The Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, who chairs the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel, set out the part played by churches: “Modern slavery is present in nearly every community in England, and will continue to flourish if we remain indifferent to it.
“Churches can provide a space to gather of goodness and grace, with an open agenda where different groups can meet to discuss how they work together to support victims, and to improve efforts for rescue and prevention.
“We can also act as ‘eyes and ears’ in our communities to help identify victims. Our work in the Clewer Initiative will build on the passion of churches to be with people, to contribute to more effective structures, and to go the extra mile for the sake of those who are suffering.”
The diocese of Derby has become a key member of the Derby and Derbyshire Modern Slavery Partnership, uniting with police and social services working to help victims.
Bath & Wells, Chester, Derby, Durham, Guildford, Lichfield, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Rochester, Southwark, and Southwell & Nottingham dioceses are already signed up: a further 16 dioceses are due to join later this year. The initiative is funded by the Community of St John the Baptist, formerly based at Clewer, and now in Cuddesdon, an Anglican order which was founded in the 19th century to help vulnerable women who were drawn into the sex industry.
The Salvation Army published figures this week that showed that referrals for its work with victims of modern slavery has risen by at least 300 per cent in the UK over the past five years. The Salvation Army has the government contract to deliver specialist support to victims of modern slavery.
Five years ago, it had 378 referrals for support for victims, and last year it helped 2589.
Nearly half of all cases were victims of sexual exploitation; 39 per cent had been trafficked for cheap labour; and 13 per cent were in domestic servitude. One person had been trafficked for organ removal.
Victims of modern slavery came from 95 different countries around the world. The highest number of women came from Albania and Nigeria, and were most frequently victims of sex traffickers; the highest number of men came from Vietnam and Poland, and were exploited for labour, including being forced to work in cannabis farms.
There were also increases in the number of people from China, India, and Pakistan being exploited; and, for the second year running, 44 British people were supported, keeping Britain among the top ten nationalities of people referred for support.
By far the highest incidence of modern slavery in the UK was in London, followed by the West Midlands, and the north-east.
The Salvation Army also runs “prevention” projects in Nigeria and the Philippines to raise awareness of trafficking among those vulnerable to it, and to help reintegrate victims of trafficking. Its director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery, Anne Read, said: “The Salvation Army has made a global commitment to fighting modern slavery and human trafficking, and we are delighted in the UK to have made a positive contribution to this through our new projects in Nigeria, as well as the Philippines.
“We believe that the model of community-led reintegration and support is effective, efficient, and relatively easily replicated — the kind of programme we need to tackle such large-scale global crime, and with potential to impact positively on the situation in the UK.
“The Salvation Army is in this fight for as long as it takes for the war to be won.”
Church investors quiz firms on cutting slavery out of supply chains
HUNDREDS of firms have made no effort to reassure church investors that they are taking steps to root out modern slavery from their supply chains.
The Church Investors Group (CIG) contacted 265 companies to question them about what steps they had taken to ensure that they were not profiting from or perpetuating slavery through their businesses. Replies were received from 103.
The International Labour Organization believes there to be 21 million victims of forced labour worldwide; and the Home Office estimates that there could be as many as 13,000 people living in slavery in the UK.
A survey conducted last year found that 71 per cent of retailers felt that it was likely that modern slavery was present in their supply chains.
The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires companies with an annual turnover of more than £36 million to publish a statement each year detailing what steps the organisation has taken to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in any of its supply chains.
Of the companies contacted by the CIG to check how they were complying with this stipulation, however, more than 60 per cent did not respond. Of the firms that did, 82 per cent reported activity, or plans to act beyond producing the legally mandated statement. Some 51 per cent of companies said that they had conducted, or would soon conduct, risk assessments around slavery. A third of the firms who replied had published a code of conduct that their supplies were expected to abide by.
Andrew Adams, who leads the CIG’s work on modern slavery, said: “Leading companies are rigorously exploring their supply chains for any instances of modern slavery, and are responding accordingly where it is found. We applaud their efforts, and encourage others to follow their lead.”