Within weeks of her appointment, UK Prime Minister Theresa May has announced additional funding of £33.5 million to combat human trafficking and slavery.

In 2012, the UN’s International Labour Organisation reported that there were almost 21 million slaves in the world, most of them – 11.7 million -in Asia. The ILO ranks 162 countries for the prevalence of slavery within their borders: India, China, Pakistan and Nigeria top the list of offenders. But this is not strictly a problem for developing countries; the US was also estimated to have around 60,000 slaves.

UK Government ministers estimate that there are currently 10 -13,000 slaves in the UK (the ILO estimate in 2012 was much lower at 4,046). Funding will be used both in the UK and to create a new taskforce to inhibit people trafficking from countries like Nigeria which are smuggling people into the UK. In the year since the Modern Slavery Act was introduced in March 2015, barrister Caroline Haughey reports that 289 slavery offences have been prosecuted in the UK. There was also a 40% rise in the number of victims referred to support services during the year.

PM Theresa May said, ‘This government… will not tolerate modern slavery, an evil trade that shatters victims’ lives and traps them in a cycle of abuse … we will not stop until slavery is consigned to the history books.’

Under the Modern Slavery Act, offenders can receive a life sentence for participation in human trafficking and slavery.

The UK’s antislavery commissioner Kevin Hyland expressed concern about the present situation: ‘What’s alarming … is that we do have people reporting to the authorities, but then they are not being properly investigated.’ Consequently, the UK Government has directed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to assess the police response to slavery.

It is estimated that human trafficking costs about £113 billion globally each year, with trafficking for sexual exploitation alone believed to cost the UK economy £890 million. Even more significant is the cost to those trafficked: they will often suffer post-traumatic stress disorder for a lifetime in consequence of the brutal and inhumane treatment they have received.

The Open Minds Foundations applauds the measures taken by the UK Government and supports the elimination of slavery. We would also like to see further government funding used to help the victims of slavery and the development of better education about slavery as a mandatory part of the school curriculum.

What do you think about this article? Do you agree? Have you read Jon’s new book? Do you have a story about bonded labor or slavery that you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you!