In Brief

Davos 2018: how big a problem is modern-day slavery?

Estimated 13,000 victims in the UK alone

Thirteen people have been arrested in Birmingham on suspicion of slavery, a global problem that has drawn the attention of world leaders in Davos this week.

Prime Minister Theresa May has called slavery “the great human rights issue of our time” and has pledged to help eradicate the “barbaric evil” of human trafficking. However, a highly critical report by the Commons Work and Pensions Committee last year said there was an “inexcusable” lack of support for the estimated 10,000 to 13,000 slaves in the UK.

More than 40 million people across the globe are living as modern slaves, according to figures compile by the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation and the Walk Free Foundation, a human rights group.

“The more that we look for modern slavery, the more we find evidence of the widespread abuse of the vulnerable,” Will Kerr, of the UK National Crime Agency, said last year.

“We know that once they have been formally identified as victims of slavery, most victims are not given a secure immigration status or right to remain, and so find themselves almost instantly destitute and without anywhere to live,” adds Kate Roberts, from the Human Trafficking Foundation.

The Guardian revealed last weekend that at least seven police forces in England have not charged anyone under modern slavery legislation introduced more than two years ago. Meanwhile, the number of cases of slavery being reported in the UK has more than doubled.

 The issue of how to tackle slavery was on the agenda at this week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, a US-based partnership that unites governments, businesses and charities, “hopes to replicate the success of a similar initiative that boosted financing to tackle Aids, malaria and tuberculosis”, says Reuters.

Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission, told the forum that “there are more people in slavery today than were extracted from Africa over 400 years of the transatlantic slave trade”.

The fund to end slavery “is seeking $250m (£176m) from the US, $500m (£352m) from other nations, and $750m (£528m) in private funding, to coordinate global anti-slavery efforts, Reuters reports.

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