Diplomats and Consuls on the frontline of the fight against modern day slavery
On the 21st of May 2013 the Human Trafficking Foundation (HTF) held the second Round-table discussion for the Diplomatic and Consular personnel of the EU Member States in London. This round-table was generously hosted at the Slovakian Embassy by the Ambassador of the Slovak Republic, H.E. Miroslav Wlachovsky, who in his opening remarks expressed his concerns that: “The numbers of victims known to us is just the tip of the iceberg while the problem is much bigger”.
The event brought together more than 40 participants from 12 EU Embassies, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Gangmasters Licencing Authority, the MET police, as well as a number of charities such as the Salvation Army, City Hearts, Anti-Slavery International and Thames Reach.The discussion had as its main focus forced labour as a new form of Modern Day Slavery.
As Mr Anthony Steen, Chairman of the HTF, pointed out: “We are dealing with new phenomenon - men slavery. At the opening of our exhibition in the House of Commons, the Prime Minister met two men - 1 British man enslaved in Bedfordshire and a Polish man trapped in debt bondage in a Scottish farm. People are being forced to open bank accounts, take loans, the victim racks up thousands of pounds in debt. New twists are developing so fast that professionals are lagging behind. The purpose of today's discussion is to embrace this new development.”
The discussion looked at problems that Embassies might be experiencing in relation to trafficking for forced labour and explored different ways for dealing with this phenomenon in collaboration with the authorities and NGOs. Gayle Munro and Chloe Pritchard, who work as researchers for Salvation Army, presented results from their recent study about the needs of male victims of trafficking and explained that these tend to be quite different from those of female victims, which prompt us to adopt new approaches if we are to effectively assist men in their rehabilitation. The participants collectively identified a number of ways in which Diplomatic and Consular staff could get more involved in the fight against this particular form of slavery.
This roundtable was part of a series of initiatives which were initially launched in 2011,when the Embassy of Bulgaria hosted an event to foster diplomatic dialogue on human trafficking amongst the representatives of the EU Member States. Considering the crucial role that Diplomatic and Consular staff play in identifying and assisting potential victims of trafficking, it was decided to re-launch the initiative in October 2012 to mark Anti-Slavery Day. On that occasion a round-table discussion was hosted by the Ambassador of Romania in the UK, the H.E. Ion Jinga, with an aim to facilitate and improve communication between Diplomatic and Consular staff and those working at the rock face, such as police and victims support providers. As a result of that discussion, the Salvation Army decided to produce an electronic handbook aimed at their subcontracted shelters, explaining how to best approach and collaborate with the EU Member State Embassies. This should be released over the next few months.
A third round-table discussion is planned to take place around Anti-Slavery Day, in October 2013.