Home secretary Amber Rudd strengthens police response to modern slavery

HOME secretary Amber Rudd announced £8.5 million on Tuesday (18) to help the police tackle modern slavery, as a monitoring group said that some of Britain’s biggest firms were failing to “properly check” their supply chains for exposure to the crime despite tougher laws and a government-led crackdown on human trafficking.

It is estimated that there are 45.8 million victims of slavery globally (according to the Walk Free Foundation’s Global Slavery Index 2016) while in the UK, the home office puts the figure between 10,000 and 13,000.

Rudd said: “Modern slavery is a barbaric crime which destroys the lives of the most vulnerable in our society. That is why I am announcing significant investment that will help our law enforcement agencies bring the perpetrators of this intolerable crime to justice.

“Our message to slave-drivers and traffickers is clear: we are coming to get you and you have nowhere to hide.”

Led by Devon and Cornwall Police, the national effort will provide more than 50 additional analysts, specialists and investigators who will assist the police response in England and Wales to modern slavery.

Britain’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 gave law enforcement new powers to tackle modern slavery, introduced tougher sentences and increased protection for victims.

Last year, 289 modern slavery offences were prosecuted in England and Wales as the Home Office said more victims were also seeking help.

Under the Modern Slavery Act, companies operating in the UK with a turnover of £36 million or more, must disclose what they have done to ensure slave labour is not in their supply chains.

Some companies, however, showed “wilful misunderstanding” of the aims of the legislation, a report said.

Just two out of 27 FTSE 100 companies – firms with high market capitalisation – delivered “rigorous” statements that demonstrated “robust action” in line with new anti-slavery legislation, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre said.

A further 11 failed to meet minimum standards in the key categories of policy, due diligence, staff training and mitigation against slavery, the campaign group said in a report, adding that no company received top marks in all areas.

“This analysis exposes a shocking level of inaction within big business on modern slavery,” said

Marilyn Croser, the director of CORE Coalition, a non-profit group which helped analyse the company reports.

Consumer and clothing company Marks & Spencer and brewing and beverage company SAB Miller, which was acquired by AB InBev earlier this month, came top of the table in the report.

BT Group, Burberry Group and Vodaphone also produced good statements on supply chains, the report said.

“No company wants the scourge of slavery in its operations and supply chains. We hope the next group (of companies)… will emulate the better practice of the (top performers),” said Phil Bloomer, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s executive director.

The next batch of FTSE 100 companies is due to report in December, the report said.

Devon and Cornwall Police Chief Constable Shaun Sawyer, the national policing lead on modern slavery, organised immigration crime and migration matters said: “I share the Home Secretary’s

unequivocal commitment to further improving the UK response to modern slavery. Police have invested in specialist investigators, developed a cross-country network, trained officers and led successful operations to tackle trafficking and exploitation of people for profit.

“This significant financial investment from the Transformation Fund enables us to do more. We will use the funding to bring in more specialist officers, improve our intelligence on traffickers and run more proactive operations that bring criminals to justice and protect victims.”

In July, prime minister Theresa May announced that she will chair a Modern Slavery Taskforce that will focus on the law enforcement response.

(with Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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