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Foreword by Kevin Hyland OBE, Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner

October 22, 2015 ·  By


Kevin Hyland 800 2

As the first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner I have been afforded an immense responsibility and duty in spearheading the United Kingdom’s response to modern slavery.

Modern slavery in the year 2015 exists in a wide variety of brutal forms, including forced and bonded labour, child slavery, early and forced marriage and all forms of trafficking in persons. This includes, but is not limited to, for the purposes of forced prostitution or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour, forced begging, forced criminality, the removal of organs and domestic servitude. Modern slavery is both an extremely serious crime and a grave violation of human rights and human dignity.

Traffickers and slave masters use coercion, violence, threats and deception to manipulate and exploit vulnerable people as commodities for the purpose of profit and criminal gain. Victims are often lured by false promises of jobs, education and even loving relationships. Whilst they are exploited and abused in many different ways, all victims share one defining experience – a loss of freedom.

In 2014 the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 – 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK. This trade in human misery is taking place in cities, towns and rural communities across the nation on a shameful scale. Sexual exploitation is the most common form of modern slavery currently reported by potential victims in the UK, followed by labour exploitation, forced criminal exploitation and domestic servitude.

Victims identified in the UK have diverse ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, but they all have the same trait of individual vulnerability, which is preyed on ruthlessly by criminals. Common countries of origin of potential victims of modern slavery identified in the UK include Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Poland. A high proportion of victims are UK nationals, which underlines the fact that not all victims of modern slavery are trafficked across borders.

Modern slavery is estimated to be one of the world’s most profitable criminal activities. It is often a market-driven criminal industry. The two primary factors driving this crime are high profits and low risk. This paradigm must be turned on its head.

I will work tirelessly to make the UK a more hostile environment for traffickers and slave masters to operate in and to develop strategies to address demand that contributes to modern slavery. Ensuring that the new powers in the 2015 Modern Slavery Act are fully utilised, such as the use of enhanced tools to target criminal finances, and trafficking prevention and risk orders, will be of paramount importance. I am also focused on improving efforts to prevent these crimes from ever occurring in the first place, in the UK and in other countries of origin.

In carrying out my duties my independence will be unwavering, whether that be toward law enforcement, government, the private sector, the third sector or indeed any organisation. This independence of action is vital to the aim and purpose of the legislation which established my role and it is something I will protect and demonstrate fairly and robustly. I have also appointed an Advisory Panel of experts from a wide range of disciplines and with a wealth of experience, allowing me to seek specialised expertise from a knowledgeable consultative group.

It is important to be clear that independence does not mean isolation. I look forward to continuing to work collaboratively with government departments, agencies and, crucially, civil society organisations and the private sector. But when the response from these bodies does not meet the required standard I will be holding to account those who have a statutory or moral duty to act.

My position as Commissioner for the whole of the UK reflects the fact that the criminals behind modern slavery have no respect for boundaries or jurisdictions. Ensuring a more collaborative and joined-up response across the United Kingdom, as well as with international partners, will be key to my duties. This includes partnering with officials and civil society organisations from across the island of Ireland to develop enhanced cross border activity.

The UK Government, the Scottish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive have all passed new legislation and related non-legislative measures that will provide important new tools and powers for an improved response. Whilst much of the core legislation shares the same strong foundation, I am also acutely aware of the importance of taking full account of the differing systems and processes of each UK administration.

Since my appointment I have engaged with many thousands of individuals and organisations across the United Kingdom and internationally. I believe it is essential that I ‘lead from the front’ to communicate my vision, to learn of models that deliver best practice and to identify those who are failing to deliver.

I have met with Ministers, statutory agencies and civil society organisations from across the UK. I am continually impressed and humbled by many who deliver services and support with such incredible dedication.

However, there have already been occasions during my first months as Commissioner where the work of statutory agencies has not been satisfactory and I will be concentrating on ensuring swift improvement. For example, initial research into the use of crime reports in England and Wales has shown that many forces fail to correctly record and investigate modern slavery crimes, which is allowing the criminals to operate with impunity. I will be looking at these issues and the evidence in further detail, highlighting the failings and requiring


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