Theresa May’s moves to tackle modern slavery are starting to pay off

Home Affairs: The Home Secretary has attracted praise from ministers for making tackling people trafficking a key aim

Nigel Morris
Deputy Political Editor
Thursday 10 December 2015 19:38
Comments
At least 10,000 people are thought to have been spirited into Britain, held against their will and put to work
At least 10,000 people are thought to have been spirited into Britain, held against their will and put to work

Despite the good intentions of political leaders, business is booming for the global gangs behind the £100bn trade in modern-day slavery which afflicts almost every nation.

At least 10,000 people are thought to have been spirited into Britain, held against their will and put to work, although the total could be much higher because of the shadowy world they inhabit.

What is certain is that they exist in every major town and city, working as prostitutes, domestic slaves and thieves, or labouring in sweatshops, cannabis farms and even nail bars.

Victims have been identified from 96 countries, with the largest numbers coming from Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania. Around 60 per cent are women or girls and one-quarter are children, many of whom are sent out to beg or pick pockets.

Theresa May has made tackling the scourge of people-trafficking one of her key aims as Home Secretary and ministers praise her determination to confront an issue which could easily have fallen down her list of priorities.

It resulted in last year’s Modern Slavery Act, the first of its kind in Europe, which toughened penalties for traffickers and required large companies to detail the action they are taking against forced labour in their global supply chain.

The issue was high on the agenda as Ms May hosted her opposite numbers from the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Spain in London today.

Her latest initiative is the establishment of a phone line which victims can ring or – if they are afraid of being overheard – text for help.

It is modelled on a similar scheme in the US, which is credited with providing escape for more than 1,000 people every year.

But Ms May faces a daunting challenge in tackling the world’s second largest illicit business (after the drugs trade) as it has been fuelled in Britain by surging levels of migration, with the new arrivals including desperate people vulnerable to exploitation by gangmasters.

The fight is being led by the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hylands, who has complained that last year’s 151 convictions for slavery-related offences was “nowhere near good enough”.

Home Secretary Theresa May was discussing the tackling of modern slavery at the US Embassy in London

His appointment and the implementation of the Act, the Home Office believes, has been crucial for boosting awareness of the problem.

Two major police forces – the West Midlands and Greater Manchester – have set up specialist anti-slavery teams and large companies are having to reassure their shareholders and the public that their products are free of slave labour.

There is evidence that this is producing results. A London couple was found guilty last month of making a Nigerian man work unpaid for them for 24 years, while four members of a Bolton family were jailed in September for trafficking Hungarian sex “slaves”. But it will be a long battle to stamp out this most pernicious of crimes two centuries after slavery was supposed to have been abolished in Britain.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in