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Modern Slavery Past, Present & Future: Can Young People Make a Difference?

Maria Hadzhieva

On 5 February in the Houses of Parliament, London, three SEE-ME youth campaigns were launched at the event ‘Modern Slavery: Past, Present & Future’, hosted by Sarah Champion MP.

More than 200 people gathered together to discuss how to end modern slavery and human trafficking. The event championed youth advocacy by providing young people with the opportunity to speak directly to a wide variety of MPs, MEPs, academics and journalists and other experts and enabling them to make a real difference on a large scale. 

The first campaign, headed by the SEE-ME participant Stella Sarmias, focused on the importance of English language learning for victims of modern slavery and trafficking. She argued that free English courses should be the right of every survivor, as part of the government support they receive. In the long term, English language knowledge would help reduce vulnerability to re-trafficking, stimulate re-integration into society, help victims bring their traffickers to justice and give them independence and agency.

The second campaign engaged with the hospitality industry, emphasising its vulnerability to human trafficking but also its key role in solving the issue in the context of the UK. Sian Lea, a Senior Program Manager at Shiva Foundation, talked about the crucial position of the industry, and hotels in particular, in addressing the issue from within. As 10% of the total UK workforce is employed in hospitality, companies in the industry need to possess the educational tools to spot, report and prevent trafficking and modern slavery.

Pepe Bingham-Hall from SEE-ME campaigns for comprehensive awareness programmes equivalent to level 3 vocational training for staff in the industry The third priority in the fight to end modern slavery and human trafficking presented in Parliament was to get local councils involved. One of the key issues that were identified in this regard was council members’ lack of awareness of their responsibilities and role in the National Referral Mechanism for victims.

SEE-ME’s young campaigner Sean Chou and experts proposed mapping out the council’s own supply chains to recognise where risk might be coming from rather than leaving the responsibility to businesses only. They also argued that every council should produce Modern Slavery Statements, while currently, only 1/5 do this on a voluntary basis.

“I want to know that my local council is not complicit in modern slavery”. Sean Chou

These three campaigns presented by youth activists and supported by experts and other stakeholders can effectively direct future work on ending modern slavery and human trafficking. The event highlighted significant gaps in current efforts to tackle the issues, such as insufficient training of hospitality staff, that Wonder Foundation would seek to further engage with.

Watch a summary of the See-Me Parliamentary event below.

Take action: write to your MP Learn how to recognise the signs of modern slavery: https://www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/about/spot-the-signs

Get in touch to tell us what you achieve: education@wonderfoundation.org.uk