The UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland OBE, has today launched his first annual report, which was laid before Parliament, Scottish Parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly this morning. The report focuses on progress made in the fight against modern slavery, with specific examples of significant achievements. This afternoon, in a room full of leaders and experts in the field, the Commissioner will present his report and highlight key areas of focus moving forward, in line with his two year strategic plan.
The Commissioner has called for a first class response across the UK, where there are up to 13,000 people trapped as victims of modern slavery. Across the country vulnerable individuals are oppressed as domestic slaves, abused as agricultural workers and exploited in brothels. The Commissioner deems this serious and often organised crime unacceptable and in need of urgent address.
The Commissioner’s report outlines his key successes as:
- developing crucial awareness raising for health practitioners and local authorities in the form of videos highlighting the signs and symptoms of modern slavery, with the potential of reaching up to 700,000 frontline staff;
- galvanising focus and funding to fighting modern slavery internationally, through securing an anti-slavery target in the UN’s development agenda for 2015-30 (which now underpins the UK’s £33.5 million International Modern Slavery Fund);
- successfully pushing for funding devoted to tackling human trafficking at source, in particular the trafficking crisis of women and girls brought from Nigeria to the UK (following recommendations provided by the Commissioner, in September the Prime Minister announced that at least £5 million will now be spent in Nigeria to tackle human trafficking);
- securing a House of Commons select committee inquiry into access to benefits for victims;
- driving forward improved modern slavery crime recording to ensure that organised crime groups cannot act with impunity;
- collaboration with the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, who has now dedicated 350 working days to inspections related to modern slavery across border and immigration systems.
The Commissioner believes that the UK has made important moves to lead in the fight against slavery internationally, but he is clear that for the UK to truly be a world leader the response at home requires urgent improvements. He is pushing for reforms to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the framework for identifying and supporting victims, to ensure support is tailored to victims’ complex needs.
In his report, the Commissioner urges UK law enforcement agencies to step up their response to the crime of modern slavery. He has published tables of data displaying the ‘substandard’ crime recording by police. In financial year 2015/16, 884 modern slavery crimes were recorded by police in England and Wales, and yet 3,146 referrals were made to the NRM during the same period. The Commissioner states that until the police response to the crime of modern slavery dramatically improves, ‘victims both present and future are being failed’. The Commissioner thus applauds the Prime Minister’s creation of a new task force to step up the operational response, and looks forward to working with the heads of UK law enforcement and intelligence agencies to ensure his aim becomes a reality.
Speaking on a panel at the report launch, Paul Broadbent, CEO of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority, said “this report acts as a tool to understand the direction the UK is taking in its efforts to combat modern slavery. Working with the UK’s first ever Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner has been fierce and fruitful. At the GLA we are committed to seeing perpetrators put behind bars and will continue to support the Commissioner’s priority of improving the law enforcement response”.
The launch will take place at Hogan Lovells in central London. Hogan Lovells Pro Bono Manager, and member of the Commissioner’s board, Yasmin Waljee, who has represented victims of modern slavery in a number of high profile cases, said “it is an honour to host this event at Hogan Lovells. I have been amazed by the work of the Commissioner and all that has been achieved in the last year. It is vital for this sector to have a single individual who can spearhead anti-slavery efforts with enthusiasm, dedication and rigour”.
In the foreword of his report, the Commissioner states “modern slavery is a gross injustice. It is a violation of human rights that impacts millions around the world and it is a reality that affects thousands in the UK. Until all in society acknowledge the damage this crime causes and the role it plays in our everyday life, the suffering of men, women and children across the United Kingdom and beyond will continue”.
View the full report here.