Dame Sara gives evidence at the International Development Sub-Committee on the work of ICAI in review of the UK's approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme.


On Wednesday 30 June 2021 Dame Sara gave evidence to the International Development Sub-Committee on the Work of the Independent Commission for Aid Impact as part of the review on the UK’s approach to tackling modern slavery through the aid programme. Dame Sara was joined by fellow panellist Christian Guy, CEO of Justice and Care. Later in the session the sub-committee heard from The Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, and Jennifer Townson, UK Migration and Modern Slavery Envoy, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

The recorded hearing can be watched via the Parliament TV link, and the full transcript can be accessed here.

When asked about the domestic impact of not addressing the issue of modern slavery at an international level Dame Sara Thornton, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:

“We are all aware that if we work with countries of origin for victims of modern slavery that come to the UK, we can build resilience and prevent people being trafficked in the first place. We know that most potential victims that are identified in the UK are, in fact, foreign nationals. Work over the last few years has shown that it is quite a small number of countries that are consistently represented in the majority of those cases. A survey showed that between 2013 and 2019 almost 70% of all referrals came from just 20 countries. You consistently have the same countries at the top of those lists. At the moment, if you look at 2013 to 2019, the top two countries were Albania and Vietnam. So international absolutely has a role to play in building resilience in communities, so that people do not feel the need to travel thousands of miles, where they are at great risk from and vulnerable to traffickers and smugglers.

The second issue is because of global supply chains. As consumers we are often buying products that are the result of forced labour. That is all to do with the complexity of global supply chains, which can very often rest on the exploitation of workers. It is very important that international development can work in some of the countries, for example in the textile industry in Bangladesh, to build resilience and reduce the likelihood of forced labour being in products in the UK.

Lastly, it is a more general thought. Whether it is organised crime or the interconnectedness of international trade, an international response and a multinational response is absolutely necessary. Whether it is the work that the FCDO funds through the United Nations University on Delta 8.7, the Inter Agency Coordination Group on Trafficking Persons, or the UN Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, there are lots of different ways in which international effort can reduce the likelihood of modern slavery in the UK."