'Slavery is hidden in plain sight'
BRITISH Home Secretary Theresa May says that the Lambeth case – whatever the outcome of the police investigations – "has raised awareness of the issue of slavery in the public and media mind".
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, she says that the "shameful and shocking" presence of slavery is "all around us, hidden in plain sight. It is walking our streets, supplying shops and supermarkets, working in fields, factories or nail bars, trapped in brothels or cowering behind the curtains in an ordinary street."
Ms May, who is also Minister for Women and Equalities, adds that while "overall crime is falling, figures show the number of victims of slavery has risen 25 per cent over the last year. And it is a crime that has a terrible and disproportionate impact".
She says the introduction of a Modern Slavery Bill – the first of its kind in Europe" – will bring about an increase in the maximum sentence for trafficking offences "to make sure the worst perpetrators get a life sentence" and that it will introduce trafficking prevention orders to restrict recidivism.
An Anti-Slavery Commissioner will also be created.
Ms May has asked veteran Labour MP Frank Field to lead a series of evidence sessions this autumn to ensure the views of experts from law enforcement, charities, academia and the international stage are heard.
She recognises, however, that legislation alone will not solve the problem. "The victims of slavery have varied backgrounds, different experiences and often complicated problems," she writes, adding that a careful and considered. response is required as "there is no simple one-size-fits-all approach".
She identifies slavery as a global problem, adding that Britain is "working with high-risk source countries to try and stop victims falling prey to modern slave drivers in the first place".
Challenging everyone to face up to the appalling reality of modern slavery and to help end it, she quotes the 19th-century anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce: "You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know."