A parliamentary committee in Britain launched an inquiry into the country’s progress in tackling modern slavery over concerns about the UK Modern Slavery Act’s effectiveness.
The law was passed back in 2015, but critics say it hasn’t done enough to prevent the crime or provide support to victims.
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One main concern of the committee is the rise of “county lines” gangs which force children — some as young as 12 — to carry and sell drugs between cities and rural areas of Britain.
“Thousands of teenagers and young people are coerced and exploited into selling drugs across the country, with British victims making up the highest proportion of known slaves in the UK,” parliament’s Home Affairs Committee said in a statement.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
The National Crime Agency said last year police had seen a rise in the abuse of children, and had identified more than 700 criminal operations in the ‘county lines’ drug trade.
The committee will assess progress made since the law came into force and what more remains to be done after government reports said police responses to modern slavery, Home Office oversight and support for victims needed to improve.
The inquiry will also look at business compliance with requirements of transparency in supply chains and potential priorities for the new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
Justine Currell, executive director of anti-slavery group Unseen, said that the priority should be upholding the law and providing comprehensive support for victims.
“We need to take a holistic view of support mechanisms for different victims who are in different situations,” she said, calling the current “one size fits all” model of support inadequate.
Forced labor is prevalent in construction, nail bars, car washes, factories, and farms across the UK according to the UK’s Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The government estimates that at least 13,000 victims of modern slavery exist in Britain.
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