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World Day Against Human Trafficking

The United Nations marks “World Day Against Trafficking in Persons” on 30th July. Although stories about victims of sexual trafficking often make it into the news, it’s important to remember that 34% of those trafficked end up in forced labour. This is a global problem – the International Labour Organisation estimates that 40.3 million people around the world are in some form of slavery, with 24.9 million of those in forced labour. In the UK, there were more than 7,400 reports to the Modern Slavery Helpline in 2018, which demonstrates the scale of the domestic problem.

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 outlaws human trafficking, and introduced criminal offences of slavery, servitude, and forced or compulsory labour. The Act was introduced against a backdrop of attempts by the government to restrain the exploitation of vulnerable workers, particularly in low-skilled and low-paid sectors such as car washing, beauty services, construction and hospitality. Over the years, the government has taken steps to build on this legislation and strengthen its enforcement.

In 2019, eight people were jailed for trafficking hundreds of vulnerable individuals from Poland to Birmingham in the UK’s largest ever modern slavery prosecution.  Victims who gave evidence in the case told how they were forced to live in cramped, substandard accommodation under threat of violence if they complained or tried to leave. They were paid less than £10 a week for working long hours picking onions, making fencing and sorting parcels.

The Modern Slavery Act requires large organisations (those with annual turnover exceeding £36 million) to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement.  The statement must set out the steps the organisation has taken to ensure slavery and human trafficking is not taking place in the business or its supply chain. The statement must be approved by senior management and published on the organisation’s website with a prominent link on the home page.

Even if an organisation is not obliged to publish a statement, it may still decide to do so on a voluntary basis. Preparing such a statement can help the organisation assess the risk of slavery and human trafficking in its own business and supply chains.

Having informed staff is also vital to protect an organisation from potential exploitation by human traffickers. Employers should raise awareness of modern slavery issues with staff and ensure they are trained in how to spot the signs of forced labour.

For advice or training on the issues raised in this blog, or for help with preparing modern slavery statements

Modern Slavery Helpline (tel: 08000 121 700)

#EndHumanTrafficking       #BeSeenBeHeard    #EndSlavery

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