Campaigners highlight slavery scourge as firms reminded of obligation
- Credit: Joshua Anstey
The region’s big businesses have been reminded of their duty to help end exploitation as the government threatened action on firms avoiding responsibilty.
Last weekend, campaigners marched in Ipswich to raise awareness of the men, women and children still trapped in slavery.
It was the third Walk for Freedom organised by the Ipswich campus of the Proclaimers Church in support of the A21 Campaign against trafficking.
The event took place in the same week as the Home Office released updated guidance for companies required to publish annual labour practice statements.
Fran Marcus, who organised the walk, said: “The idea was to raise awareness of modern-day slavery by providing facts and figures.
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“It’s estimated to generate £104m in Britain each year – with the average age of victims just 12.
“People don’t tend to realise it’s taking place on their doorstep.
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“We must all acknowledge that people are being bought and sold in our country – and to make sure it doesn’t continue on our watch.”
Last week, the Salvation Army revealed the number of victims referred to its specialist support service increased from 44 to 101 in the East of England between July 2017 and June 2018 – the biggest regional rise in the UK.
The majority of victims are female and most are trafficked for labour or sexual exploitation.
The Home Office has written to 17,000 bosses, threatening to expose firms with a turnover of more than £36m that breach their requirement to publish annual transparency statements.
About 60% have published a statement, as required under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, but continued non-compliance will not be tolerated, according to the minister for crime, safeguarding and vulnerability, Victoria Atkins.
According to a Transparency In Supply Chains (TISC) report, Suffolk’s seven districts and boroughs are home to 112 suppliers required to provide a statement, including steps taken to minimise areas of risk.
The Port of Felixstowe publishes its statement online, while Stansted’s partner company, MAG, has a modern-slavery and human trafficking policy at all of its airports, where all staff have awareness training and access to a ‘safe call’ whistleblowing hotline.
A spokesman said Stansted also works with the police and Border Force to report, reduce and prevent risks as passengers pass through the terminal.