Christian charities and organisations have called for the Modern Slavery Bill to be strengthened if it is to be effective in combating human trafficking and slavery.
A coalition comprising 15 leading anti-slavery organisations, including the Evangelical Alliance, made the call as the government issued its draft bill and Frank Field MP published his evidence review, which estimated there are 10,000 victims of slavery in the UK.
In a briefing paper issued last month, the coalition group also called on churches to help take up the cause of the 18th century abolitionists. The paper said, ‘Children are sold into slavery to pay family debts. People pay for passage, only to be trafficked over borders and find forced labour conditions rather than freedom. This must end’.
The paper asks the government to increase the focus on victims; to identify them properly, so they can receive proper support and assistance. It also calls for a ‘strong and independent anti-slavery commissioner, who must be accountable to parliament and be able to speak across all parties’.
The third aim outlined in the paper is to make public information on measures taken to eradicate modern slavery from its supply chains.
Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said, ‘This bill needs to live up to its promise. It has the potential to tackle modern slavery, but the government needs to listen to campaign groups in order to achieve that aim’.
Nola Leach, chief executive of charity Care, said, ‘This is a key moment in Britain’s fight against human trafficking and slavery. The government must seize this opportunity to set a new standard in the care and protection of survivors’.
Terry Tennens, executive director of International Justice Mission UK, said that an anti-slavery commissioner was of ‘vital importance’ in winning the battle in eradicating modern slavery in the UK.
More strengthening of the Bill is needed to protect child victims, Nola Leach of Care added. She said it was in danger of ‘overlooking the vulnerability of child victims of human trafficking and the specialist support that they require.
‘The charity believes that the government should establish a system of Child Trafficking Guardians to work alongside children who have been trafficked, providing consistent, independent support, accompanying them and speaking up for the child’s best interests in all circumstances’.
The comments came in response to a 62-page draft Bill, set out by the Rt Hon. Theresa May MP, only part of which will require legislation.
In her introduction to the Bill, she wrote, ‘I intend to publish a Modern Slavery Action Plan in the spring, which will set out a comprehensive response to this crime, based on Mr Field’s and others’ valuable work’.
The government is also reviewing the operation and effectiveness of the National Referral Mechanism, and working closely with law enforcement and the criminal justice system to make sure that the ‘evil people involved in this crime’ are prosecuted appropriately, while protecting the vulnerable victims whose life has been cruelly taken from them.
Theresa May added: ‘I am determined to expose this hidden crime; to stop it at source; to bring more perpetrators to justice; and to protect and support victims. I hope you are too’.