Karen Bradley: Sir Mo Farah’s bravery is a reminder of our global responsibility to victims of trafficking and modern slavery
It takes enormous courage for a survivor of human trafficking to talk about their experiences and I applaud Sir Mo Farah’s bravery.
If Olympic gold medals, world records and a knighthood weren’t achievement enough, he has accomplished all this having survived a horrendous crime; one that is still in our midst in the United Kingdom today.
In 2021 alone there were over five thousand child victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK identified through the government’s framework of support, the National Referral Mechanism. This figure marks the highest number of children ever recorded, with British victims accounting for the largest represented nationality. These figures act as an important reminder, that child trafficking does not just take place overseas but also in our own country as well.
It’s important we allow victims the time to come forward at their own pace
Child trafficking in the UK exists in a multitude of forms from criminal exploitation where young people are coerced into distributing drugs across geographical areas for gangs, sexual exploitation and forced labour to domestic servitude in the case of Sir Mo Farah. Owing to the hidden nature of domestic servitude, which exists in private residential spaces, this exploitation type is often the hardest to detect and, in some cases, can remain concealed for years.
Due to the complexities of unearthing domestic servitude in the UK, it is critical that professionals working with children are trained on observing potential indicators of modern slavery so they can step in and disrupt abuses children may be facing. In Sir Mo Farah’s case it was a teacher he trusted to reveal his experiences to, which changed the course of his life forever and ensured rescue from his exploiters.
The recent Nationality and Borders Act places a new demand on victims of trafficking to disclose their experiences within a specified time period to authorities or risk damaging their credibility as a victim. Reflecting on Sir Mo Farah’s experience through the lens of this legislation, it is clear that for victims of human trafficking, having the confidence to disclose their story can take years. There are many reasons for this, such as fear of their traffickers, fear of deportation or even fear of not being believed. It’s important we allow victims the time to come forward at their own pace.
Our government is a world leader in tackling modern slavery. We published the first ever Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and we must continue to uphold this reputation by affording victims stability and long-term, consistent support that extends from the moment of identification and throughout their recovery journey. Without this, the stories of survivors remain hidden, perpetrators escape prosecution and even a national hero as Sir Mo lives in fear of speaking out.
Karen Bradley is the Conservative MP for Staffordshire Moorlands and chair of the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery APPG.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.