by Sangeeta Haindl — During a service at Westminster Abbey earlier this month, held to remember 18th Century anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce whose work led to the abolition of slavery across most of the British empire, Prime Minister May demanded that the UK lead the global fight against human trafficking with a “radical approach” to “target every aspect of this despicable trade and put the slave-drivers out of business for good.” As home secretary, May was responsible for passing the Modern Slavery Act last year - the first of its kind in Europe.
The UK's anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland, said victims were failed by "chronic weaknesses" within law enforcement, along with a "substandard" crime recording in England and Wales. This had led to fewer investigations being launched into modern slavery cases. In his first annual report, Hyland said: "Inadequacies in this area impact not only present and future victims, but could also allow organised crime groups to act with impunity, compromising the UK's national security.” The Home Office estimates that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of human trafficking in Britain; the global figure is 45 million.
The issue of modern-day slavery is a hot topic, and top of the agenda for companies based in the UK or doing business here. The subject was actively discussed by some of the country’s top businesses at a recent symposium sponsored by Source Intelligence. As organisations are under the spotlight to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains and investigators are examining all areas of modern-day slavery – from working conditions within the country to a company’s international supply chain. Recent studies suggest that more than two-thirds of all businesses believe it is very likely that modern slavery has or currently exists within their supply chain.
Most experts agree a good approach to determining whether slavery (or forced labour), child labour and human trafficking issues are present in a company’s supply chain is to start by assessing their "already in motion" conflict minerals tracing programs. Scalable procedures that are set up to gather and analyse supplier data about the possible presence of conflict minerals in a product can significantly reduce the probability of slavery, child labour or human trafficking issues. The validation and assessment processes of conflict minerals compliance enable companies to reduce risk and enhance supply chain transparency significantly. Although not a guarantee, companies able to demonstrate a competent conflict minerals compliance program will likely avoid more in-depth or follow-up problems with other issues such as modern day slavery.
May has pledged £33m from the aid budget to focus on high risk trafficking source countries such as Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania, Poland and Albania. Currently, criminal gangs are exploiting Europe’s migration crisis to force more people into sex work and other types of slavery. Chillingly, these criminals choose to traffic children, as they are easy to recruit, quick to replace and they can keep control of these child victims cheaply and discreetly; which makes this fight one well worth fighting.
Photo Credit: Source Intelligence on Ethical Performance