The content of modern slavery statements: This section addressed inconsistencies in reporting approaches taken by different companies and the possibility of making certain criteria mandatory. This section also sought to address the fact that global movements in modern slavery legislation may make it desirable to ‘harmonise our approach’. The questions posed focused on reporting practices and the implications of making certain areas mandatory.
Transparency, Compliance, and enforcement: The second section of the consultation sought to propose the introduction of a central government registry, one designed to improve transparency. It also addressed reporting deadlines, proposing a single annual reporting deadline so as to reduce the confusion of multiple separate deadlines throughout the year. It finally sought to gain views into how section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act might be enforced. Questions were posed on each of these areas.
Public sector supply chains: The final area addressed in the consultation examined public sector supply chains. In essence, the consultation proposed that reporting requirements would be extended to public sector organisations with a turnover of more than £36 million per year. Reporting requirements would be for each individual government body to maintain responsibility, whether given individually or as part of a group statement. The questions posed by this section of the consultation focused on the apparent benefits and challenges of imposing modern slavery reporting requirements on large public sector bodies.
Today the 18th October 2019 marks Anti-Slavery Day, upon which members of HTMSE, along with international organisations, governments, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals around the world raise awareness for those affected by human trafficking and modern slavery. Since 2015, HTMSE has been working to connect both victims to professional support and professionals to professionals aiming to aid the development of knowledge in the human trafficking and modern slavery sector.
To combat these complex and global issues, the need for international and interdisciplinary cooperation is critical. HTMSE is an open, free, online, central contact directory and eLearning platform enabling collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders in the human trafficking and modern slavery sector. This year, our database has increased exponentially, furthering access to specialist knowledge, cases and research from around the world. We have been listed on the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner’s website as an official resource available beyond public and private sectors, with contact details and eLearning material open freely to society via the internet. We have been recognised by Tech4Good as a finalist for the Community Impact Award 2019, demonstrating how technology and connectivity is instrumental in driving forward a social justice agenda today.
HTMSE receives a high number of referrals each week from both professionals and victims requesting expert assistance. HTMSE has connected hundreds of victims of trafficking and human rights violations to the support services they require, such as victim shelters, legal advice, and mental health support both within the UK and internationally. Furthermore, HTMSE has connected NGOs, specialists organisations and professionals working in this sector, facilitated the exchange of information, legal representation and expert reports, research and litigation that has led to justice for victims of human trafficking.
HTMSE and it’s members are having a tangible impact on the human trafficking and modern slavery sector. Today we recognise this progress, whist preparing for another year of impact and development that is needed to address the fact that 21 million people worldwide are still currently victims of modern slavery. For those who work in this sector, and are not yet listed on the HTMSE directory, we encourage you to sign up a profile here: https://humantraffickingexperts.com/main/signup
Earlier this year our founder and director Philippa Southwell was called to give oral evidence as a legal expert in the Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry. As well as giving oral evidence our director Philippa also gave written evidence. Issues that were raised during the inquiry concern the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in particular the section 45 modern slavery defence and excluded schedule 4 offences, and section 54 corporate modern slavery compliance. Also of note were concerns regarding the exploitation of British national minors involved in child criminal exploitation in the forms of forced drug possession, robbery, burglaries, and weapons running. Philippa gave legal analysis on all of these topics. Further areas of focus by the inquiry were:
The detention of Modern Slavery victims in immigration removal centres, and the adequacy of policy in relation to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking being held in immigration detention centres.
The role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner and the relationship between the different law enforcement agencies, e.g. the police, NCA, GLAA, etc, with the national referral mechanism was a major focus of the evidence given by law enforcement professionals and the former Independent UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
and, Victim, and victim support services’, perspectives on policy and support available to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
The evidence for the inquiry was presented as a combination of oral and written evidence and is drawn from a wide variety of professionals and organisations representing a broad spectrum of sectors. At present those who have given evidence include legal practitioners from a wide range of specialisms; the NGO sector; law enforcement professionals and organisations, including the Home Office, NCA, Local Authorities and multiple police forces; Academic institutions and the research sector; various corporate bodies; and multiple individual experts and specialist organisations.
The Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry is ongoing, with oral evidence continuing to be heard. The final findings have yet to be announced. Both the written and oral evidence that have been heard as part of the inquiry, including those submitted by Philippa Southwell, can be found here.
It is increasingly recognised that tackling human trafficking and modern slavery, crimes that are often of a hidden nature, requires multi-agency collaboration and professional experts from across all sectors. The Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Expert Directory was established in the UK to bring together professionals and specialists who work in the counter-trafficking and anti-slavery sectors from around the world. Victims of human trafficking can be transported within their own country or across borders many thousands of miles from home. The directory addressed a critical need for a centralised global database of experts and professionals to better enable those working in the field to approach an incredibly complex, often international, problem. The HTMSE directory lists a large cross section of professionals and organisations, all of whom have different specialisms and varying qualifications, including NGOs, charities, businesses, lawyers and law firms, medical practitioners and researchers. The directory is designed as a free resource for all, whether signing up to the directory as an expert or searching the directory in search of an expert.
If you are a you are a professional, NGO, charity, business, lawyer, medical practitioner, or other expert or specialist organisation and wish to sign up to the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Expert Directory and professional network please follow the link here.
In July 2019 the UK Government released it’s response to the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which was published earlier in the year. The Review appointed experts to advise on the following four sections of the act, making a total of 80 recommendations:
The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (s 40-44)
Transparency in Supply Chains (s 54)
Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (s 48)
Legal Application (specifically s 3 on the meaning of exploitation, s 8-10
on Slavery and Trafficking Reparation Orders and s 45 on the statutory defence).
The response to the Independent Review sets out several actions the UK Government will be taking to address some of the recommendations, including the launching of a public consultation about transparency in supply chains and the announcement of £10 million for the development of a new modern slavery policy and evidence centre. The policy and evidence research centre will involve academics, charities and firms. However, whilst the new centre has been described as having great potential to improve knowledge on human trafficking and modern slavery there are some concerns that the new initiative is being developed while policy is failing in other areas.
The full UK Government response can be found here.
On the 17th July HTMSE attended the Tech4Good awards as a shortlisted finalist in the Community Impact Award category.The Tech4Good awards recognise the use of technology to make a social difference across a variety of different sectors, such as accessibility, connectivity, inclusivity and community impact.
Contemporary slavery is a current global issue, which directly affects even the corporate and commercial markets with the introduction of the s54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act, and similar legislation in the USA and Australia. Furthermore, the migrant crisis and forced migration has also compounded human trafficking and modern slavery, it has become an ever present issue and there has been an increase in media and public awareness on this topic. Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, which generates $150 billion for traffickers each year and is a growing market.
The Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery Expert Directory (HTMSE) is an e-commerce initiative founded in 2015 by leading human trafficking lawyer Philippa Southwell, after identifying a desperate need for a single resource for professionals working in the counter human trafficking and modern slavery sector. The directory is an advanced search engine established in order to link specialists not just within the UK based legal community, but to connect with lawyers, medical experts, academics and corporate stakeholders globally that can advance development on this issue, and create the link between modern slavery victims and support. This use of technology in the counter-trafficking and anti-slavery sectors is unique, with the majority of technology being used to monitor and research victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, research and monitor suspected offenders, and to provide ongoing support to law enforcement agencies.
Since its launch, the initiative has established itself as a leading global directory. It enables individuals to search for professionals by their specialist fields and location worldwide.
Overall it appears likely that the social impacts of climate change could lead to an increased risk of human trafficking and modern slavery, particularly in areas where climate change causes natural disasters. However, in both slow onset and sudden natural disasters it is possible to mitigate the increased risk of human trafficking by ensuring effective recovery and law enforcement practices are built into long term strategies.
The Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has was published this week on the 22nd May 2019. The review has identified eighty recommendations for improvements to the operation of the act and wider policies to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in the United Kingdom. The review makes significant recommendations for how legislation should be amended to increase compliance by businesses and improve supply chain transparency, including:
Recommendation 25: Failure to fulfil modern slavery statement reporting requirements or to act when instances of slavery are found should be an offence under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.
Recommendation 22: The legislation should be amended to require companies to consider the entirety of their supply chains [in respect of modern slavery]. If a company has not done so, it should be required to explain why it has not and what steps it is going to take in the future.
Recommendation 18: In section 54(5) ‘may’ should be changed to ‘must’ or ‘shall’, with the effect that the six areas set out as areas that an organisation’s statement may cover will become mandatory. If a company determines that one of the headings is not applicable to their business, it should be required to explain why.
Recommendation 32: Section 54 should be extended to the public sector. Government departments should publish a [modern slavery] statement at the end of the financial year, approved by the Department’s board and signed by the Permanent Secretary as Accounting Officer. Local government, agencies and other public authorities should publish a statement if their annual budget exceeds £36 million.
The recommendations would significantly increase the responsibility on businesses to address anti-slavery in their supply chains, and afford the government greater power to punish companies that do not comply.
However, whilst the use of technology to combat human trafficking and modern slavery is advancing in new directions and receiving high profile acclaim concerns have been raised that technology merely constitutes a tool and its use alone may not be enough. TechUK, an organisation responsible for representing approximately 900 companies that develop technology, has raised concerns that for technological tools to be truly effective corporations need to ensure they have a strong anti-slavery culture with a willingness to act. Whilst strong corporate and social anti-slavery cultures are vital, the development of technological tools and processes to target human trafficking and modern slavery demonstrate positive commitments by a wide range of actors to tackling these issues. Many of these technological developments are recognised as new and as these tools are refined it is quite possible that technology will take play a greater role in combating human trafficking and modern slavery.