William Eichler 18 October 2019

Brexit threatens fight against modern slavery

The commissioner appointed to tackle modern slavery has called for a stronger focus on prevention and warned that Brexit could undermine efforts to stop slavery.

The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, has today published her Strategic Plan for 2019 – 2021, which outlines the objectives and priorities for fighting slavery.

The plan calls for the improvement of victim care and support, and for more emphasis on supporting law enforcement and prosecutions. It also focuses on prevention and getting value from research and innovation.

‘My priorities rightly focus on victim protection and bringing traffickers to justice,’ Dame Sara said.

‘However, protecting victims and prosecuting traffickers is not enough. To stop this crime from happening in the first place, we need to do much more to tackle the systems and structures that allow modern slavery to thrive.’

She added that prevention should ‘span the whole spectrum of our response to combatting modern slavery – from raising awareness of consumers and citizens, to ensuring that businesses, public services and Government are doing all that they can to prevent trafficking from taking place in their organisations and in their supply chains.’

Dame Sara also warned that Brexit might affect the fight against modern slavery.

‘In the next year we will need to make new arrangements for international co-operation with European law enforcement and policing agencies,’ she said.

‘Many trafficking investigations are currently undertaken with European partners. It is essential that we are able to replicate the current level of transnational co-operation in the future in order to bring to justice those who trade in our fellow human beings.’

‘Similarly, as we rethink our migration policies it is vital that the protection of vulnerable people is front and centre,’ she continued.

‘We need to ensure that the migration systems developed are stress tested to ensure that they do not provide traffickers with opportunities to exploit the vulnerable. Those who traffick and trade in human beings will take any opportunity for exploitation. We must not let them threaten our joint security.’

The Strategic Plan for tackling slavery is published as councils warn the number of child victims of modern slavery referred for support has risen by 800% in the past five years.

Councils have warned today that the number of referalls for potential child victims of modern slavery has increased by 800% in the past year.

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