During her time as home secretary, Theresa May announced her plans for the United Kingdom to lead the way in the fight against modern slavery, she pledged £33 million from the aid budget. In her last act as prime minister, she has promised more funding towards tackling what she has called the "great human rights issue of our time".
In her 2016 speech at Westminster Abbey during a service for anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. Wilberforce’s efforts contributed to the abolition of slavery in 1807, and the eventual 1833 Act whereby all slaves throughout the British Empire were awarded their freedom merely months before his death in July of the same year.
Despite the campaigning of Wilberforce and many others like him, the Slavery Abolition Act 1833 did not signal the end of slavery. It is estimated that there are approximately 45 million people enslaved in the world today, with between 10,000-13,000 thousand human trafficking victims in the UK alone.
The UK Prime Minister has already shown her dedication to combatting modern slavery, with the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015. As well as fining large corporations for failing to produce a statement outlining how they plan to target modern slavery within their company, the Act also increased sentences for convicted traffickers. However, Home Office research suggests that slavery crimes are being seriously under-recorded. Despite 3,146 slavery referrals being made to the National Referral Mechanism in 2015, only 884 were recorded, leading to UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland to announce the need for “urgent improvements” to the NRM.
Regardless of the relatively low number of human trafficking crimes that are being recorded, the number of prosecutions have increased. In 2015, 117 criminals were prosecuted for crimes relating to modern slavery, compared within 98 in 2014. It has been estimated that approximately $150 billion in profit is made through human trafficking.
In her speech Theresa May referred to modern slavery as a “global phenomenon that knows no boundaries”, acknowledging the need for a “radical domestic and international approach” if human traffickers are to be caught and punished for their crimes. The Archbishop of Canterbury voiced his fears that we are in fact surrounded by modern slavery, but we are simply unable to see it.
We very much applaud the impetus being created by Theresa May to tackle the issue of modern slavery, and agree that it is vital that we focus on fixing the UKs ‘hidden’ slavery problem, as well as the broader issue worldwide.
Originally published 18/6/2016