My talk at the Wilberforce Oak

We are standing here at the tree where William Wilberforce decided to pursue the abolitionist campaign in 1788. Thanks to his efforts over many decades and the efforts of the other early abolitionists, it became illegal to own a slave in the UK in 1833. We no longer need to campaign to make slavery illegal. It is already illegal in every country in the world. Unlike William Wilberforce and his colleagues, we no longer need to persuade people that slavery is morally wrong. Even though the number of potential slaves in the world and here in the UK are staggeringly high, as a percentage of the population they are the lowest they have ever been.

Our challenge today is to bring slavery into the light and to help support those that are freed from slavery so they do not fall back into a cycle of desperation and exploitation.
What can we do to help over 40 million in slavery in the world and approximately 136,000 in slavery in the UK today?

We can learn to spot the signs:
1) Is there a suspicious person always around them? This could be the person holding them in slavery. They may not allow the slave to be by themselves.
2) Are they struggling with the language? If someone cannot speak the language they cannot ask for help from others around them very easily.
3) Has their passport or ID been taken away from them? This means that they have no proof of who they are and they cannot travel.
4) Are they sad or angry? They may be distressed if they are being treated badly. They may be missing home and have been hurt.

We all need to report when we are concerned that modern slavery could be happening in our local area. You can call the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700 and pass on any concerns, or in an emergency situation you should call the police on 999.

We can also ensure we are not putting price before people in our shopping habits. When we go to hand car washes or nail bars are those people washing our cars or painting our nails being paid a decent wage and living free of threats and violence? When we buy our coffee, our chocolate, our tuna and our clothes, amongst others products, have those products been produced, harvested or caught by children or adults living in horrific conditions with little or no pay and with little regard to their safety.

We can support the Free for Good campaign here in Britain.

When someone escapes a situation of slavery they can be extremely vulnerable. Often they need medical treatment, legal advice and mental health support. Most of all they need some stability while they work out how to rebuild their lives.

But in Britain the support for victims is far from what it should be. The Government currently provides short-term support, usually for up to 45 days, or the time it takes the authorities to decide whether someone qualifies as a victim of slavery. After that the support ends.

Most victims have to move out of a safe house without any further support as they attempt to rebuild their lives away from slavery. While dealing with their recent trauma they struggle to make ends meet, some risk becoming homeless, and many become targets for traffickers again.

The authorities often see victims of slavery through the context of their immigration status and treat them as immigration offenders rather than victims of a serious crime.
If victims do not have a guarantee of sustained support they are unlikely to feel safe and secure enough to give evidence to police investigations into their captors.

We need to change this situation. We need more people to become aware of it and put pressure on the Government to act.

Finally, we can talk about this crime with friends, families, neighbours and acquaintances. The criminal networks behind this crime are ruthless and devious, but we can work to cut off the demand for their products and services and we can work to help the potential victims of slavery be more resilient and aware of the potential danger of this crime.

I am now going to hand over to the wonderful Peter to lead us in song – songs that have brought comfort to those living in slavery in the past and songs that can galvanise our resolve to take action, whether that action be big or small.

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