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It is time to eradicate the shameful practice of modern slavery

It is time to eradicate the shameful practice of modern slavery
4 min read

Writing exclusively for PoliticsHome, International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt says that other countries must follow our lead to protect vulnerable men, women and children.

Imagine the hope you must have to leave home and work overseas so that you can provide a better life for your family. Imagine if your hopes were dashed in the most horrific way. Instead of a job, you find servitude. Instead of a salary, hunger and imprisonment. Instead of empowerment, powerlessness.

Modern day slavery is a global disgrace.

In any given day, 40 million people are victims of this horrendous crime.

Last week I talked with a Bangladeshi woman who had travelled to Dubai to work as a maid. But instead of the job she was expecting, she found herself in a terrifying situation, trapped in modern slavery. 

She was exploited and abused. Her employer told her she owned her. Unable to leave, she was forced to live in horrendous conditions and received just a fraction of the wage she had been promised.

This story is sadly not rare and it must not be tolerated.

Without action, the results of the modern slavery industry will continue to be sold on British high streets.

In the 21st century we cannot let people be duped into imprisonment, domestic servitude and forced labour anywhere in the world.

It is time to eradicate this shameful practice and we’re committed to stamping it out at home and abroad. But we cannot do this alone. Other countries must follow our lead to protect vulnerable men, women and children.

We’re already working to tackle modern slavery in countries that are sources of slavery into the UK. We’re building close partnerships with countries, where modern slavery is more widespread. In these countries we can make a significant difference to drive down numbers. We’re also pushing the international system to take meaningful action.

At this year’s UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister set out the UK’s ambitious commitments to address modern slavery and, so far, these have been endorsed by 40 countries, including Nigeria, China, Saudi Arabia and Brazil.

We are also committed through the Sustainable Development Goals to take action to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and the worst forms of child labour.

As International Development Secretary, I am working to fulfil these commitments. That’s why last week I set out a £40 million package of UK aid for three big projects that will help end modern slavery for good.

The first project is the Work in Freedom programme, which will help prevent trafficking and forced labour among women migrant workers from South Asia. Our support will give skills training to women, provide support when they move overseas for work and help other governments improve their laws. This will stop women, like those I met in Bangladesh, being duped into forced labour.

The second project we’re backing is the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery to combat crime in sectors with a high risk of slavery – such as fisheries, construction and the garment industry - by working with law enforcement, businesses and victim services.

And the third project will tackle trafficking in Nigeria by creating jobs in the hospitality, creative and technology sectors so that people are not forced into trafficking in the first place. For those that have already been subjected to trafficking, we will provide improved victim support and counselling.

These projects will help 500,000 people around the world who have either survived modern slavery or are at risk of becoming victims.

All of this is in addition to the Home Office’s continued support to tackle modern slavery in the UK and overseas.

Our work is providing alternative livelihoods for potential victims and protecting them from re-trafficking. By creating quality jobs, we're giving vulnerable people more choices to earn a living in their own country and reducing the chances of their suffering from modern slavery.

Together, we are breaking the business model of people perpetrating an evil abolished by Britain 200 years ago. And, with over 40 million people estimated to be modern day slaves, we are in this for the long haul.

We must remember that, behind the numbers, there are people suffering horrific exploitation every single day. We cannot let this continue. 

Penny Mordaunt is Secretary of State for International Development and is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North

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