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Church leaders, charities, and politicians up the plea for action on modern slavery

03 November 2017


Here and now: the stage at a multifaith conference on modern slavery at Manchester Cathedral, on Monday

Here and now: the stage at a multifaith conference on modern slavery at Manchester Cathedral, on Monday

TACKLING modern slavery in the UK and supporting the victims of its crimes “demands our attention” and immediate action, Church leaders, charities, and politicians have agreed this week.

On Monday, 50 Church, police, and policy leaders met at the House of Commons to debate the current UK strategy for countering modern slavery. The Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, who chairs the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel was among them.

“The seminar provided an invaluable opportunity for politicians, law enforcement agencies and those working with and for victims to share concerns, strategies and wisdom,” he said. “There was also an opportunity to consider reactions to the recent report about police practice, and for various sectors to adjust their contributions in the light of the challenges identified.”

Campaigner: the Bishop of Derby, Dr Alastair Redfern, chairs the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Advisory Panel

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner for the UK, Kevin Hyland, who also attended, said that the number of people living in slavery in the country was likely to be considerably higher than the current estimate of 13,000. The latest statistics suggest that the number of victims of slavery has increased by at least 300 per cent in the past five years (News, 20 October).

Canon Edmund Newell, the Principal of Cumberland Lodge, Windsor, the educational foundation that organised the seminar, said: “In the urgent case of modern slavery, churches clearly have an important role to play, as the eyes and ears of their local communities.”

The director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery at the Salvation Army, Major Anne Read, was also on the panel. She said that there were still challenges to be faced, “not least in gaining the confidence of those victims who have been robbed of their ability to trust anyone and are therefore unable to communicate their experience in order to receive the protection and support which they are entitled to and deserve.”

The seminar came after the Minister for Crime, Safeguarding, and Vulnerability, Sarah Newton, unveiled government reforms to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for child trafficking victims, last week. Besides establishing “places of safety” to those most vulnerable to modern-slavery crimes, the Home Office is to provide up to six months of “drop-in” services for victims coming out of the NRM period, in partnership with the Salvation Army, she announced.

A spokesperson for the Salvation Army said this week: “We are pleased that the Government has taken account of the evidence to inform a need to extend the length of statutory support available to victims, and the requirement to provide access to places of safety immediately on escape from exploitation, as this can be when victims are at their most vulnerable.”

The Government is also appointing nationally Independent Child Trafficking Advocates, who provide specialist support to trafficked children in Wales, Hampshire, and Greater Manchester.

The Bishop of St Asaph, the Rt Revd Gregory Cameron, has since expressed his shock at the continued prevalence of modern slavery in Wales. In a video address to the 100 attendees of a diocesan anti-slavery event on Saturday, he urged charities, churches, and the police to work together to eradicate crimes of modern slavery in the country.

“The issue. . . demands our attention,” he said. “Social reformers of the late 18th and early 19th century [who] worked for the abolition of slavery. . . would have been shocked, as we should be shocked, to discover that, 200 years later, slavery still exists.”

The Dean of Manchester, the Very Revd Rogers Govender, hosted a multifaith conference in Manchester Cathedral on the challenges modern slavery poses, on Monday. It was led by members of the Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking Multi-Faith Forum in partnership with Stop the Traffik and Greater Manchester Police Modern Slavery Unit.

“It was great to see the cathedral providing space for the community to gather in this way to address one of the scourges in our modern society,” he said on Wednesday.

MANCHESTER CATHEDRALRaising awareness: the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Baroness Beverley Hughes, emphasises the importance of strong partnerships between the authorities and communities in tackling modern slavery, at a multifaith conference at Manchester Cathedral, on Monday

Speakers included the Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Baroness Hughes, who emphasised the importance of strong partnerships between the authorities and communities.

The events came after a report published by the Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services last week concluded that the standard of police investigations into modern-slavery crimes in the UK, and the level of care provided to victims, was “highly inconsistent” or “unacceptable” in some forces.

The Christian charity CARE said that the police had a “crucial role to play” in bringing traffickers to justice and connecting victims to support services, and urged the Government to back Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill.

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