In Brief

UK must lead modern slavery fight. says Theresa May

Prime Minister pledges £33m and sets up cabinet taskforce to tackle 'barbaric evil'

Theresa May has vowed to lead the fight against modern slavery, calling it "the great human rights issue of our time".

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Prime Minister says a new cabinet taskforce will tackle the "barbaric evil" and pledged £33m from the aid budget to fund worldwide action to combat people trafficking.

"We need a radically new, comprehensive approach to defeating this vile and systematic international business model at its source and in transit," she said.

The Home Office estimates that between 10,000 and 13,000 people in the UK live in servitude. Worldwide, the number rises to 45 million.

Often said to be "hiding in plain sight", victims include "women forced in prostitution, 'imprisoned' domestic workers and workers in fields, factories and fishing boats", says the BBC. The majority of these come from Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam, Romania and Poland, although 90 UK nationals were also identified as victims in 2013.

Labour has said the PM's track record on the issue during her time as home secretary was not cause for optimism.

Citing the 982 children who had been identified as victims of modern slavery last year in the UK, the shadow minister for preventing abuse, Sarah Champion, said modern slavery had increased on May's watch.

The PM "should be ashamed of her record on protecting child victims of slavery," Champion told the Daily Mail. If she was serious about tackling the problem, police and other professionals would need more resources, added the MP.

A review by barrister Caroline Haughey, marking the first anniversary of the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act, found 289 offences were prosecuted under the act last year. The number of victims referred for support rose by 40 per cent.

Police still need to develop expertise in the area, according to the UK's anti-slavery commissioner, Kevin Hyland,

He has "expressed concern at the levels of potential slavery incidents being reported as crimes", The Guardian reports, and said people-trafficking cases are still not being investigated properly.

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