A £33m International Modern Slavery Fund will be created to tackle forced labour and trafficking in high risk countries, Theresa May said this weekend.
UK prime minister Theresa May wants Britain to “lead the way in defeating modern slavery”, she said in an article for the Sunday Telegraph.
The five-year fund, paid for by the foreign aid budget, will target countries “where we know victims are regularly trafficked to the UK”, she said.
May also used to the article to announce the creation of a new task force to coordinate the government’s response to modern slavery across departments.
“Together with my successor as home secretary, we will hold regular meetings in Downing Street with every relevant department present to get a real grip of this issue right across Whitehall,” said May.
Exactly a year since its first provisions came into force, May also announced the results of the Modern Slavery Act Review. Conducted by barrister Caroline Haughey, the report said there was a 40% increase in number of potential victims identified compared to the previous year.
The report found a small increase in prosecutions and convictions for slavery and trafficking offences year on year. In 2015, there were 289 prosecutions and 113 convictions, compared to 253 prosecutions and 108 convictions the previous year.
There were only 27 prosecutions and no convictions under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 recorded for last year. A Home Office spokesman said this was because insufficient time had passed to complete the legal processes.
“Because of the fact the Modern Slavery Act legislation is so new... and bare in mind the length of time it takes to investigate a breach of justice in things like this, that’s the reason the numbers are still zero at the moment,” he said.
The act simplified existing anti slavery legislation, gave law enforcement new powers and introduced harsher sentences for those convicted.
“It has delivered…a world-leading transparency requirement on businesses to show that modern slavery is not taking place in their companies or their supply chains,” wote May this weekend.
Under article 52 of the act, all companies with a UK footprint and a turnover of more than £36m are required to report annually on the steps they are taking to identify and eradicate slavery in their supply chains.
The transparency clause came into effect in last October and its impact was not assessed in the report.
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