Cameron urged to sign EU ban on slave trafficking

Victim of enforced labour in Britain speaks out as thousands back <i>IoS</i> petition's call on coalition to act

Thousands of people have signed up to this newspaper's campaign to combat modern slavery. It has garnered support from public figures including the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Yvette Cooper, the actress Juliet Stevenson and the leader of the Green Party, Caroline Lucas.

A petition urging David Cameron and Nick Clegg to opt into European legislation on slavery now has more than 11,000 signatures. The demand for action was echoed yesterday by Mende Nazer, a Sudanese woman whose ordeal as a domestic slave in Britain has been dramatised and will be performed at the House of Lords in November.

The comedian and TV presenter Ruby Wax and the presenter Nicholas Parsons also gave their backing to the campaign. Parsons said this weekend: "I think it's all wrong. It seems strange that the Government is concerned with immigration at the same time that so many people are being trafficked into the country. I think The Independent on Sunday's campaign is very worthwhile and it's a principle we should all be concerned about."

The campaign prompted national concern after we revealed last week that Romanian children as young as nine were found farming in a field in Worcestershire. The children are now understood to have been released from care to their parents' custody, but social services are continuing with their investigations.

Ms Nazer, whose best-selling story of escaping domestic slavery in Britain inspired the film I Am Slave, said the Government needs to sign up to the EU directive on human trafficking, which campaigners say would make it easier to prosecute traffickers and protect victims.

Ms Nazer said: "I don't think the Government is doing what they should do to terminate this awful practice. They don't want to sign the EU convention. Why? For me it's nothing to do with politics; we're talking about a human crisis here."

The 29-year-old was brought to Britain as a domestic slave to a Sudanese diplomat in 2000. Captured in her village in the Nuba mountains in Sudan aged just 12, she was taken to work for a wealthy family in Khartoum. Six years later she was brought to London, locked inside a diplomat's house and made to work all day for no money.

A play about Ms Nazer's life, called Slave – A Question of Freedom, will be performed in the Lords after a run at the Lowry Theatre in Salford. She said politicians must not to turn a blind eye to cases like hers. "The Government doesn't want to take any steps to believe those who are suffering, because they want to be on good terms with governments in the countries the diplomats come from," she said. "The country has to decide whether they believe the experiences of those who have been trafficked or whether they would rather keep their relationship with the government of the country the slave comes from."

Jenny Moss, a community advocate at the domestic worker charity Kalayaan, said it worked with 23 people who have been enslaved to diplomats in the UK between April 2009 and August 2010. "Government officials have long been aware of the problem of diplomats abusing their domestic staff," she said. "As the previous immigration minister Phil Woolas stated, the Government is clearly putting diplomatic relations above the interest of victims."

Pointing at a scar on her arm where her first master burnt her with boiling oil in Sudan, Ms Nazer said: "Slavery isn't about the physical, it's the mental and psychological effect. This is my scar from slavery – it's still here – but there is no pain. It is psychologically that you still suffer."

Join the IoS campaign

The Independent on Sunday is campaigning to persuade the Government to sign up to the EU directive on human trafficking. The directive will strengthen our laws to protect victims and make it easier to prosecute those who enslave them. Readers can call on David Cameron and Nick Clegg to do the right thing by signing the petition on the campaigning website 38 Degrees.

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