Only around a decade ago very few people in the UK were aware that slavery still exists in Britain today. We were the first organisation to campaign on slavery in modern day Britain.
With time the awareness has been rising and slavery is now present in a mainstream debate.
We have had many successes in campaigning for introducing legislation to tackle slavery, implementing mechanisms protecting the victims and highlighting forms of slavery previously unknown to the public and the authorities.
In 2005 the government ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, setting the standards for protecting the victims of slavery.
In 2011 our campaign convinced the Government to opt in to the European Union Trafficking Directive, laying down foundations for today’s anti-slavery policies.
To monitor how the governments implements both acts we joined the coalition of nine organisations to form the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG), which we now host and chair. The group regularly publishes major reports and briefings scrutinising all elements of law and practice, which significantly influenced the government’s response to modern slavery.
Another crucial success came in 2010. Following a campaign by Anti-Slavery and Liberty, the UK Parliament introduced forced labour as a criminal offence under the Coroners and Justice Act 2009. This meant that forced labour could also be looked at as a separate offence to those connected to trafficking foreign nationals into the UK from abroad.
Our work in the UK today
The testament to years of our work on raising awareness of the importance of the issue was introducing the Modern Slavery Act in March 2015.
The Act was a step in the right direction. However, many issues relating particularly to identification and protection of the victims remain unresolved. Too often people who have been trafficked fail to get the support from the authorities, while perpetrators get away with their crimes.
Our campaign is calling on the Government to implement a comprehensive system to protect all victims of slavery regardless of their immigration status. We also continue to work with the Government on improving the current system.
We support many individual legal cases. We intervened in the first ever trafficking case heard by the UK Supreme Court, which ruled that trafficked people have right to claim damages irrespective of their immigration status.
We have also worked to highlight new forms of slavery prevalent in the UK. Recently, as part of our Race in Europe project, we published an extensive report on trafficking of people into crime and begging, and campaigned for the right of the victims not to be prosecuted for the crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers. We now work on a new project to reduce vulnerability of Vietnamese people to trafficking into the UK.
We are working in partnership with the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations, to improve the lives of workers and identify the risks of modern slavery in the supply chains.
Recently we supported Anti-Slavery’s patron Baroness Young of Hornsey in drafting and introducing a private members bill in the House of Lords to strengthen the transparency in supply chains provision of the Modern Slavery Act.
We will continue to work until slavery is truly ended in the UK.
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