“You may choose to look the other way, but you can never say again that you did not know…”
The Wilberforce Institute focuses on celebrating ideas of freedom, equality and social justice as our forebears did but in an updated and contemporary way. Sometimes it feels a difficult task to uphold such values as the numbers of people in forced and bonded labour, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking, county lines, domestic servitude and forced criminality keep on increasing while those profiting from such activities are seldom apprehended, let alone punished.
What gives me and my colleagues at the Wilberforce Institute hope is that knowledge about modern slavery and how horrible it is continues to increase, as more and more people become aware both that modern slavery exists and that it is a bad thing. Increasing knowledge about modern slavery is extremely important in trying to end it, which makes an event such as the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery on 2 December so important.
We follow the words of our namesake, William Wilberforce, in applying today what he said two centuries ago: `you may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.’ Our aim at the Wilberforce Institute is to increase awareness of the evil of contemporary exploitation.
For this reason, we have initiated the ACTion to Combat Modern Slavery Justice Hub, managed by Andrew Smith, a person very experienced in matters to do with homelessness, victim exploitation and modern slavery, especially in his ongoing work with the Humberside Police.
This Justice Hub was launched with great fanfare at the Inner Temple in London on 21 October with speeches from modern slavery expert Professor Kevin Bales; a leading barrister who prosecuted the first modern slavery case under new legislation, Caroline Haughey; and one of the key people behind the passing of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, Fiona Hill.
The aim of this Justice Hub is to help give information and training to a whole range of stakeholders, from lawyers to social workers to people working in justice and others, about how the Modern Slavery Act operates and about how modern slavery might be recognised, observed and dealt with. We will not just provide training and advice on modern slavery but will keep in mind at all times the most important people in efforts to combat modern slavery – the victims of slavery.
We need to learn from the survivors of modern slavery, forced labour and human trafficking so that we can respond effectively to these terrible crimes. The International Day for the Abolition of Slavery makes us remember those victims of slavery in the past, urge us to help those survivors of slavery in the present and work to stop there being more victims of slavery in the future.