A group of 30 former students has provided more than £65,000 worth of funding for a new PhD research scholarship at the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation.
The scholarship will examine the links between migration, trafficking and contemporary slavery and is inspired by the memory of prominent anti-apartheid activist Wiseman Khuzwayo.
Many of the former students were contemporaries of Wiseman who graduated from the University with a law degree in 1981. He was highly regarded as a young man who campaigned against injustice in South Africa and left the country after charges against him of treason and sabotage collapsing and police detention.
After graduating from the University of Hull in 1981, Wiseman went on to work in journalism in London until his death last May from lung cancer aged 62.
Professor John Oldfield, the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute director, has welcomed their backing at a time when the need to tackle modern slavery issues has taken on extra urgency given the increase in refugee numbers.
“Refugees are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked or exploited once they arrive in their destination country,” he said.
“Those who are worried about being denied asylum, or who don’t know their entitlements, may attempt to remain hidden, or accept illegitimate work to survive, which puts them at risk of falling into the hands of unscrupulous gang masters.”
The Hull alumni who have come together to fund the scholarship include Parole Board chairman Professor Nick Hardwick and Delyn MP David Hanson and they also support the Hull Open Doors project which helps migrants to integrate into local society.
One of the group, communications expert Mike Craven, said the new Wiseman Khuzwayo PhD Scholarship in Refugees and Human Trafficking was appropriately named because he had experienced the reality of being a political refugee himself.
"We were all involved in student politics with Wiseman. He was a larger than life character who quickly established a very high profile at Hull.
"He retained a good sense of humour despite his physical suffering at the hands of the authorities in South Africa."
Currently, the Wilberforce Institute has 14 PhD students who are delivering life-changing research that helps inform policies and practices around modern day slavery.
The Wilberforce Institute attracts students from the USA, Australia, Africa and Latin America and is seeking to extend its global reach, with the aim of influencing the policies of non-governmental organisations, local authorities and law enforcement agencies while having a direct impact on the lives of some of society’s most vulnerable people.