Yesterday on anti-slavery day, the UK government pledged to ‘consign modern slavery to the history books’ once and for all.
It was the ninth year the UK has marked the date to raise awareness to the practice that ensnares so many victims, including children, on an ‘industrial scale’ across the UK.
Numerous events took place yesterday to shed light on the issue such as Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum which featured an interactive nail salon bar to highlight that the beauty industry is a high-risk sector for trafficking and slavery.
In London, the Cabinet Office launched the initiative ‘Hidden in Plain Sight’ to assist frontline professionals in spotting the signs of modern slavery and how to act on it, including NHS workers, job centre staff and banks. The campaign encourages people to ‘take a second look’ at the people they interact with and train them on how to spot the signs which, albeit can often be minute, but can also be glaring tell-tale signs to those in the know. This includes spotting someone moving their wages into someone else’s account, noticing that someone does not possess their own important documents or seeing that someone is being accompanied by another shady and/or controlling person.
Similar endeavours were followed through by Border Force staff in railway stations, ports and airports to educate the general public on what to do in the event of someone being exploited.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said:
“The shadow of modern slavery can fall across any aspect of our lives – the clothes we wear, the food we eat, and the services we pay for. This is an outrage I refuse to ignore.
“That’s why the government is determined to end this vile crime and protect its victims. I’ll not stop until slavery is truly consigned to the history books.”
The mission comes as the 2019 Annual Modern Slavery report revealed over 1,400 modern slavery investigations came to light in the past year – a 64% rise from the year before – while cases rose to 7,000 referred via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
The report further promises to improve the support received through the NRM. This is welcome news to anti-slavery and anti-trafficking campaigners who have long argued against the failing system. The new plans include the appointment of Jennifer Townson as the first Migration and Modern Slavery Envoy, the launch of the Home Office Single Competent authority, a new unit to make decisions on slavery cases and the continuation of the Independent Child Trafficking Guardians across England and Wales.
Minister for Safeguarding and Vulnerability Victoria Atkins said:
“However much we may think of slavery as a historic crime, the truth is people are being trafficked, abused and exploited in the 21st century.
“Raising awareness of modern slavery is crucial in the fight against this crime, which is why Anti-Slavery Day and events like this one in Liverpool are so important.”