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Modern Slavery: Why it is important to be informed

The United Nations agree slavery is prohibited, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states:

“No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”

For many, if not most of us, the concept of slavery was something historical and ‘other’ to our experience of being in the world. Yet, more than 40 million people do not live in freedom, and in Europe alone 800,000 people are enslaved.

modern slavery

Modern Slavery encompasses:

  1. Human trafficking.
  2. Slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

From 31 July 2015, in all UK referrals, the Competent Authority (trained decision makers) must consider whether the person is a victim of human trafficking. In England and Wales, if someone is found not to be a victim of trafficking, the Competent Authority must go on to consider whether they are the victim of another form of modern slavery, which includes slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

The NRM grants a minimum 45-day reflection and recovery period for victims of human trafficking or modern slavery. Trained decision makers decide whether individuals referred to them should be considered to be victims of trafficking according to the definition in the Council of Europe Convention. In England and Wales, further consideration is made to those who do not meet the definition of trafficking. Their cases are then considered against the definitions of slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

Finally, governments are waking to the realisation that they have a role in combatting the widespread and organised criminal enterprise and predatory forces that aim to exploit other human beings. In the UK, this is legislatively embodied in the Modern Slavery Act 2015, and there are mechanisms such as the National Referral Mechanism to identify victims and ensure they receive the appropriate support.

However, this NRM system is in its infancy. Although there have been some successful outcomes, there is much still to be understood. Not only about what works but how we overcome the barriers to identifying victims and ensure our responses do not further victimise them. At a time when public service provision is drastically reduced there is concern that some of the most vulnerable people in our country will be lost.

Developing what is good practice in this area is an ongoing process, and it involves sharing knowledge and engaging in critical debate about the issues. We need a robust approach to some of most abhorrent abuse of people, which needs everyone to identify what they can do and how they can support service development to accommodate the multifaceted needs of enslaved individuals.

If you are not enslaved you have a choice – choose to be part of the change!

Blog By Dr Donna Peach

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