May 2, 2018 / 12:11 AM / 4 months ago

Failure to understand modern slavery stunts UK response: lawmakers

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Britain’s failure to fully grasp the nature or scale of modern slavery and implement a landmark law compounds victims’ suffering and leaves them at risk of repeat trafficking, a parliamentary committee said on Wednesday.

The government is unable to track progress in its fight against slavery as it does not know how much money it is spending, and lacks the data or strategies to understand the crime, said the cross-party Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

Suspected victims face a long wait to learn whether they will be treated as a survivor of slavery and entitled to help, causing further distress and anxiety, according to a PAC report.

“Victims of modern slavery can face unimaginable horrors, but the government’s good intentions have yet to result in coherent action to help them,” said Meg Hillier, chair of the committee.

“The government cannot hope to target resources in an effective manner until it properly understands the scale and nature of the challenge,” Hillier said in a statement. “The government must get a grip on what works and what doesn’t.”

Regarded as a leader in the global drive to end slavery, Britain passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 to crack down on traffickers, force businesses to check their supply chains for forced labor, and protect people at risk of being enslaved.

Yet anti-slavery activists say the law has not yet made a serious dent in the illicit trade in Britain, where the government estimates at least 13,000 people are victims of forced labor, sexual exploitation and domestic servitude.

Britain is working to improve victim support and eradicate slavery by requiring firms to act to clean up their supply chains, said the interior ministry (Home Office).

“The PAC recognizes that the UK is ahead of many countries in responding to modern slavery and the government ... will consider its recommendations carefully,” a spokesman said.

The committee’s report said the Home Office did not know whether modern slavery victims were receiving adequate care, what happened to them after they left the government’s support system, or whether they might have been enslaved again.

The government has an “incomplete picture” of the crime and needs to do more to ensure victims are identified and protected, a public spending watchdog said last year.

“(Britain’s) strategy seems to be focused on finding the initial crime, but without a proper follow up,” Jakub Sobik of Anti-Slavery International told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Claire Cozens Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org

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