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'Slavery in UK does exist' says Helen Grant MP

MARKING THE INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ABOLITION OF SLAVERY: Helen Grant MP at the Museum of London with representatives from Conservative Friends of the Caribbean and Conservative Friends of Africa

TODAY IT IS estimated that over 40 million people are victims of modern slavery. One in four are children, and women and girls remain disproportionately affected, according to the latest statistics released by the United Nations.

While we have come a long way since the legal abolition of slavery across the British Empire in 1833, the statistics reveal a sad truth that these evil practices continue.

Yes, we are approaching two centuries since slavery was abolished, but the legacy of racism remains. This was evidenced by a new report in The Guardian, published this month, revealing shocking evidence of the everyday racial bias that affects black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in the UK.

The report also highlights the wider impact of unconscious bias, ‘micro-aggressions’ and how these behaviours impact upon the everyday lives of 8.5 million Britons from minority groups.

Sunday, December 2 marked the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery, and to commemorate the occasion I visited the Museum of London.

REMINDER

Together, with representatives from Conservative Friends of the Caribbean and Conservative Friends of Africa, we saw the very table where the Slavery Abolition Act was drafted. Indeed, it was in April of 1833 at a public meeting in Maidstone, my own parliamentary constituency, that the ailing anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce delivered his final anti-slavery speech.

On July 26 of that year, the Abolition of Slavery bill was passed in Parliament, and a messenger was rushed to Wilberforce’s house where he lay dying. Providentially, he passed away three days later.

The visit for me was a moving reminder of how far we have come, and the steps we still need to take to redouble our efforts to end modern day slavery. In our society today it comes in many forms; be it sexual exploitation, the abuse of unaccompanied children or the ill-treatment of agricultural workers.

Given its proximity to the coast and mainland Europe, my constituency in Kent is particularly susceptible to human trafficking. As a former member of the Human Trafficking Foundation, I remain committed to ending this scourge, particularly within my father’s homeland of Nigeria, where Boko Haram continue to exploit trafficked children for labour and sex trades.

It is a common mistake to think that modern slavery is a foreign phenomenon and only affects those living in other countries or those who come to the UK from elsewhere. In fact, as part of my work to highlight this issue, I have met many British citizens who are stuck in a cycle of forced labour and can see no way out.

As vice chair for communities, I want to continue to work closely and directly with communities across the UK to identify and support victims of this horrendous crime.

The Government has trained new specialist investigators and frontline police officers as well as investing in training for prosecutors, to equip them to deal sensitively with complex cases and support victims.

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