There are an estimated 46 million people living in modern slavery across the globe who have been trafficked, coerced, or otherwise forced into terrible exploitation, labor, or domestic servitude.
The International Development Secretary, Priti Patel, announced that the United Kingdom was cracking down on the barbaric crime of modern slavery as she called for a world free from this abhorrent trade.
During a visit to a safe house – Ms. Patel met survivors of modern slavery and announced increased support (of £7 million) to provide alternative livelihoods for potential victims of trafficking and modern slavery, including support for those who become victims to help them reintegrate into society and protect them from re-trafficking – reducing a crime that directly affects the UK.
The £7 million announcement will work to tackle the root causes as well as the symptoms of modern slavery and human trafficking in Nigeria. Nigeria is the fourth largest source of human trafficking to the UK and International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates that approximately 80% of girls arriving in Europe from Nigeria are potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation. The numbers have soared from 1,454 in 2014 to 11,009 in 2016.
Ms. Patel’s joint visit to Nigeria alongside Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, raised the issue of trafficking at the highest levels in government and challenged the political and cultural acceptance of modern slavery, a trade which earns more for criminals around the world than any other, apart from the illegal drug trade.
The announcement was made during Ms. Patel and Mr. Johnson’s two-day visit, during which they announced a new package of humanitarian aid to help rebuild north-east Nigeria, and saw how the UK’s aid, defense, and diplomacy would be working together to build security and shared prosperity in Nigeria and at home
Ms. Patel stated:
“It is shameful that in the 21st Century the evil crime of modern slavery lurks in every corner of the globe, including on the UK’s streets, destroying the lives of young men and women. We will not stand aside and ignore this barbaric and often invisible crime which all too often reaches our shores and is damaging for everyone except the perpetrators."
“The UK is a global leader in stamping out modern slavery, pressing the international community including the Nigerian government to tackle this crime at the source, bring perpetrators to justice and protect victims who have been subject to unimaginable horrors."
“Our support is offering vulnerable girls and women an alternative life to slavery and exploitation and helping them reintegrate into society, stopping vicious cycles of abuse and creating a more prosperous and secure future for thousands, as well as for us at home.”
The Home Office estimates that there were 10,000 – 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery in the UK in 2013.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has made it clear that tackling modern slavery is a top priority for the UK. She created the world leading Modern Slavery Act in 2015 and established the cross-government task force, which includes the International Development Secretary.
In December last year, Ms. Patel announced £8 million to double support to a special protection fund set up to keep women and girl refugees in the Mediterranean region safe from trafficking and exploitation.
According to latest figures, 875,000 Nigerians are living in modern slavery worldwide, including in the UK. Ms. Patel visited a safe house in Lagos ran by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Person (NAPTIP). Ms. Patel heard from the counselors at the safe house who have helped some of these vulnerable people.
There she saw children – some as young as seven years old – who have been trafficked across the world, including to the UK, Europe, Libya and other countries across Africa. She vowed to challenge the cultural acceptance of human exploitation; often young girls and boys who end up trapped in this abusive trade are encouraged by their families to risk their lives in search of money and a better future.
The new package of support builds on progress already being made by the UK in Nigeria and across the world. The UK’s existing assistance in Nigeria is helping to support investigations and bring perpetrators to justice, as well as providing for victims.
The program will build evidence base and trial interventions to prevent modern slavery and be ready to scale up what works. It will also provide credible alternatives for women and girls in the high risk demographic and help diversify economic activity in Edo State – Nigeria’s trafficking hub - and other Niger Delta states. Most importantly, it will improve the essential support for victims, including counseling and reintegration assistance, to prevent vulnerable people being re-trafficked and falling back into a cycle of exploitation.
The British government is driving reform within the international system to coordinate a more effective and focused approach to stamp out this exploitation.
The Department For International Development (DFID) will challenge the Nigerian government to step up and tackle modern slavery, and act as champions that will help advocate for reform. This new allocation of funds from the DFID's Nigeria budget will explicitly go towards tackling human trafficking and modern slavery.