Slaves on our Streets: The Independent launches modern slavery report at Houses of Parliament

Pope Francis is set to inspect investigation's findings at Vatican conference next week

Eleanor Rose
Wednesday 31 January 2018 11:44
ITV news presenter Julie Etchingham attended the publication’s opening reception, along with Marisa Beggonia and Mimi Valera
ITV news presenter Julie Etchingham attended the publication’s opening reception, along with Marisa Beggonia and Mimi Valera

The Independent’s special report on modern slavery, commissioned as part of our recent Slaves on Our Streets campaign, was launched last night at a gala reception at the Houses of Parliament.

The report, which lays out 11 recommendations for governments and businesses to implement to combat this modern day scourge, is to be distributed to political and business leaders across Britain.

Next Friday, Pope Francis will also inspect its findings at the prestigious anti-modern slavery Santa Marta Group conference being held at the Vatican, which is attended by many of the world's leading police chiefs.

At the reception last night, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Britain’s most senior Catholic who chaired the round table of experts who produced Slaves on our Streets: A report on modern slavery in the UK, hailed the document saying it “expresses the commitment of the people of London… to carry on this long battle”.

He spoke of his horror of the evils taking place right here in the UK today, saying: “When I first met the first victim of modern slavery I’d come across I was shocked by what I heard.

“She was English and had been trafficked into prostitution in Italy. That turned all my preconceived notions about human trafficking on their head and brought the issue home.”

From September to November The Independent’s three-month investigation exposed the scale of the crime in London, from sex trafficking to those forced to work in car washes and on building sites.

As part of the investigation, Cardinal Nichols convened the round table of experts from business, media, law, finance, philanthropy, law enforcement and victim support.

Among the experts on it were Kevin Hyland, the independent anti-slavery commissioner who was our partner in the investigation, newsreader and TV presenter Julie Etchingham, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation Monique Villa, Jean Baderschneider of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, Yasmin Waljee from law firm Hogan Lovells, Unilever chief executive Paul Polman, former chief constable of Northern Ireland Sir Matt Baggott and vice-chairman John Studzinsk of investment giant Blackstone.

At the House of Commons event, Mr Hyland hailed the progress made since the start of the campaign, including a 160 per cent increase in reports of the crime by the general public.

Mr Hyland said: “Thank you to The Independent and to the Cardinal for making this happen. And a big thanks to the people who are addressing this on a daily basis.”

Among the key recommendations put forward by the report’s experts are giving longer-term support for survivors regardless of their immigration status, making trafficking a coordinated national policing priority and encouraging companies to investigate slavery in their supply chains.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe and Cardinal Vincent Nichols attended the launch and have both welcomed the project

Former Met Police chief Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, who worked with The Independent to oversee the investigation, said the investigation had added to the understanding of the crime.

“Many people have contacted me and told me how much they’ve learned about modern slavery,” he said as he thanked the panel, adding: “It’s when you get leadership like this that things can change.”

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