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Modern Day Slavery

June 29, 2017 10:36 AM

Slavery isn't something that happened long ago and far away. It happens here in Newcastle and the north east, today, as the arrests and charges in late 2016 here and in Consett and Houghton le Spring clearly prove. The jail sentences of up to 12 years handed out in May 2017 show that this is not something that will be tolerated.

There are a lot of desperate people who fall into the hands of the despicable who exploit their vulnerability. It is the mark of a civilised society that we help the weak and punish the exploiters.

At the General Election the Liberal Democrats promised to implement the recommendations of a report on domestic worker visas by barrister James Ewins QC; and to work cross-border to combat serious organised crime (including child sexual exploitation) by retaining the European Arrest Warrant, membership of Europol and access to EU information databases. These are valuable resources which the Brexiteers intend to throw away with their reckless purge of anything with Europe in the title.

We also pledged further training for police and prosecutors in identifying and supporting survivors. It was a matter of some pride that when senior police officers spoke about the recent case, they were as concerned about protecting the vulnerable as banging up the criminals.

The Queen's Speech made some mention of the subject but left much unsaid. The Home Office suggests that as long ago as 2014 there may have been as many as 13,000 trafficked people, of which less than half have been identified and more continue to be smuggled. Constant vigilance, not just by the authorities, is essential.

Just before the General Election, a Parliamnetary Committee drew attention to the plight of many who have beene exploited and abused, and who have been identified by the National Crime Agency National Referral Mechanism as victims of modern day slavery. They get an official letter connfirming that, but they may be homeless, not eligible for benefits, or with no right to remain in the UK.

The State cannot just rely on charities. It can and must do better in helping victims to start putting their lives back together again.

Newcastle City Council passed a motion on this subject instigated by the Liberal Democrats' Councillor Doreen Huddart, on 28th June 2017