A Year in Focus – March 31st 2016 – Transparency, Supply Chains, and the Modern Day Slavery Act 2015.
The year in focus in this instance is based on the anniversary of March 2015. For in this particular month – on the 26th March 2015, the UK government initiated through legislation, a deviation from mainstream legal nomenclature currently being run out across the European Union to define the ‘crime’ and Human rights violation of Human Trafficking. The European framework on Human Trafficking, was initially set out in 2002 to approximate the laws and regulations of European Union (EU) countries in the field of police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters relating to the fight against trafficking in human beings. It also aimed to set out common framework provisions at European level ‘in order to address issues such as criminalisation, penalties and other sanctions, aggravating circumstances, jurisdiction and extradition’. (2002/629/JHA) Working with the same terminology, bringing together some co-ordination across policing, information sharing and policy formation around Human Trafficing was seen to be an important and responsible response to the crisis of Human Trafficking whose scale of traction in Europe was just starting to be recognised.
In 2005 the European Union sought to strengthen the commitment of the EU to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings with an additional report by the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament in May 2006 based on Article 10 of the Council Framework Decision of 19 July 2002. In this communication the Commission sought to further reinforce the commitment of the EU and its countries to preventing and combating trafficking in human beings committed for purposes of sexual or labour exploitation, and in doing so to protect, support and rehabilitate victims. In this communication the EU Commission noted that trafficking in human beings could not be effectively tackled unless an integrated approach against Trafficking was adopted, based on
- respect for human rights
- taking into account the global nature of the problem.
Such an approach the Commission noted required a coordinated policy response particularly in the areas of freedom, security and justice, external relations, development cooperation, employment, gender equality and non-discrimination to be realised across the European Union. In 2011 a further series of measures were announced to sharpen up the EU’s response on a number of measures around victim protection and early identification and intervention on Traffickers. Furthermore in 2009 the EU had put into place an informal network to support country based Rapporteurs on Human Trafficking in order to bolster the understanding and networking of best practice developing across the EU.
The UKs journey to the Modern Slavery Act 2015
In October 2013 the then Parliamentary Under Secretary for Crime and Security James Brokenshire with Home Office backing from Teresa May and Lord Bates, introduced the Modern Day Slavery Bill. Brokenshire heralded its presence in the chamber that it would “send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.” This was language first heard at the public launch of It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery in March 2013. Professor Kevin Bales was the main platform speaker at the launch of this Centre of Social Justice report – a centre close to the heart of the Conservative Government having been founded in 2004 by former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith. To a crowded room of NGOs, journalists, policy advisers, and conservative politicians, Bales called for Britain to find its former leadership on counter-slavery matters, and implied that it could find refreshed greatness as the first country to ‘eradicate slavery from its shores’ once more with the gripping of human trafficking as slavery. The bait for greatness seems to have been too much for the politicians who recieved the briefings from this meeting to let slip. And thus three years and much committee time, report commissioning, lobbying and internal civil service reorganisation and reframing of training for police, prosecutors and courts later, together with the launching of scores of new supply chain related businesses to which we now turn, we now are.
Transparency of Supply Chains and the Modern Slavery Act 2015
March 31st 2016 sees the requirement for businesses with an annual turnover of over £36 million to report on what they are doing in their businesses to resist intrusion of human trafficking and forced labour in their supply chain. This is in many ways an important inclusion in the spirit of the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight human Trafficking UN GIFT, call to incorporate big business in the global requirement to clean up the ‘supply chain’. Big brands are now recruiting counter trafficking CSR personnel and outsourcing to CSR auditting businesses to assist them in delivering ‘slavery free’ order and procurement books. A late but wlcome addition to the MDS act, when in October 2015 the transparency of ‘supply chains’ provision was appended to MDS. Hailed by Home Secretary the Hon. Teresa May as ‘a truly ground breaking measure’ and an important addition to the ‘world leading Modern Slavery Act’ of 2015, the transparency in supply chains provision in the Act brings into view, businesses with an annual turnover of over 36 million, who will want to align themselves with the Conservative Governments ‘hard and tough’ talk on counter trafficking.
A slavery and human trafficking statement for a financial year is—
(a) a statement of the steps the organisation has taken during the financial year to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is not taking place—
(i)in any of its supply chains, and
(ii)in any part of its own business, or
(b)a statement that the organisation has taken no such steps.
All of this activity throughout 2014 and 2015, has spawned a whole new micro industry in transparency and counter trafficking resilience tool kit development in the supply chain. The Conservative administration espouses to ‘ raise the bar and send(ing) out a powerful signal to the world about the UK’s determination to confront all forms of modern slavery’. Although there is at present no real bite to the provision, as the requirement is in truth advisory with no criminal consequences for failure to report, a late in the day and significant insertion of ‘Directorate level sign off’ for the supply chain audit, offers going forward, the chance that over time, with share holder and consumer groups taking note of what the audit reveals, that the measure might gain some teeth and transformational traction.
At present though, we are very much in the foothills of the assault on restoring accountability within the supply chain in the face of all the drivers of the globalised market economy to place vulnerable communities, at considerable risk, with children, women and men caught in the slip stream of providing the cheapest and most easily disposable supply of labour in certain sectors of harvesting, processing, manufacturing and construction businesses. The challenge to render all links in the chain ‘slave, or forced labour free’ is going to be a long haul. One which will outlast every parliamentary based five year plan, for the foreseeable future, and a goal which could be significantly undermined if some of the strong regional alliances built across Europe over the last two decades to identify and resist human trafficking and forced labour presence in the supply chain are unravelled. Stakeholders who buy into this process, now at least have the sustainable development goals announced last year by the United Nations to assist them in the transformation of business goals placing the seventeen elements announced by the UN of sustainable development, with human rights based flourishing and ecological sustainability playing new roles as critical cousins to the ‘free movement of capital’, labour and the golden mean of the market, the mercantile mantra of the ‘wealth of nations’ which has powered the industrial revolution and its technological successor over the last two centuries.
The deeper background of this initiative to transform the wording of Human Trafficking legislation into a fanlfared Modern Day Slavery Act, may help us assess the likelihood of success of the rebranding which has been taking place. The role of American Academic and activist Kevin Bales has not been without significance. Bales – with a string of notable publications on the presence of slavery like practices informing his analysis of the global realisation of human trafficking – brought to Britain, language and legislative responses which many comment refer more appropriately to the cultural and racial specificity of the triangle of Caribbean and North American enslavement of African peoples across the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, state sanctioned for three centuries has spawned a deadly legacy in ethnic separation and delegitimisation of an entire population within North America. As Andrew Coyle, Allison Campbell and Rodney Neufeld’s book amongst others point out, the prison based industrial inclusion of a significant part of the black population, defines the principal political asymmetries of North American society which was embedded in state sponsored slavery, and the Black Codes of 1865, emerging from the years of the American Civil War itself defined around states position on legitimising black slavery within their economies.
In vesting British legislation in such North Atlantic colours, the United Kingdom government has begun a journey which could restructure responses to Human Trafficking in the UK and further afield. There have been a number of voices expressing concern around separating the UK from the regional and international language of European directives and UN protocols developed over the last decade with an overarching framework built internatationally to accord with the edicts of the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Human Beings (2003) and the subsequent Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings opened for signature in Warsaw in 2005 and eventually ratified in the UK on the 17th December 2008. The next six months, with the up coming referendum on the UK’s place in the European Union, and the current policies emerging in Europe around the control of recent ‘surges’ in migration will have a significant role to play in how the UK moves forward with its new umbrella legislation, and how its wider regional partners react to its changes.
To the outside observer, tougher language – announcing a UK hostile to ‘modern day slavery’ – should signal tougher responses to those who commit trafficking crimes. But in truth very little appears to have altered. True there are a couple of new provisions included which beef up the provision of advocacy for children caught within the processes of trafficking, and two new civil orders put in place which assist police challenges in moving forward enquiries internationally. However this could have been undertaken within the existing framework of counter trafficking responses. For many of its critics, the new act is seen as window dressing, and the role and contribution of the welcome presence of some independence in the appointment of an Anti Slavery Commissioner to monitor and hold accountable the policing response to enforce the new legislation, though welcomed, yet to be fully put to the test. A great deal of money and energy has been spent reallocating legislation already in place to some new locations. Parliamentary questions will eventually disclose at quite what cost, when other capabilities of the Criminal Justice System have been, some might comment by stealth, dismantled. We shall be blogging on this aspect later in the year, as some of the first year results of the MDS in place are analysed with the 2015 – 2016 National Referral Mechanism numbers assembled later in 2016.
So what in case you missed it did the Modern Day Slavery Act bring to the party which was not already in place.
The Modern Day Slavery Act 2015
- The act brought in a number of changes principally the long overdue appointment of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, (NGOs in the UK had been lobbying for the appointment of an independent Rapporteur on Trafficking, appointed in many European and international states for some years now) in the person of a former senior police officer who had served with particular distinction during the 2012 London Olympics, in the Vice and trafficking unit S014.
- The consolidation of a range of counter trafficking, kidnap and slavery legislation which had been distributed across the legal shelves. This it is said will enable the easier absorption and implementation by police forces, prosecutors and the criminal justice system of counter trafficking measures
- The introduction of two new civil orders to enable the courts to place restrictions on those convicted of modern slavery offences, or those involved in such offences but not yet convicted
- The clarification of mechanisms for seizing traffickers’ assets and channelling some of that money towards victims for compensation payments – which had been informally operating over the last decade under the processes of the proceeds of crime act 2004 (POCA)
- The creation of a new statutory defence for slavery or trafficking victims, compelled to commit criminal offences whilst under the control of their traffickers
- The provision (in a piloted trialling) of child trafficking advocates
What have been the impacts?
Of course it is still to early to call. The impacts of all this churn, publicity and publishing attached to the Modern Slavery Act has raised a generation of NGO neophytes some of whom believe that before 2015 the United Kingdom had not been undertaking any strategically informed responses to human trafficking –chronically inaccurate but that is the advantage and risk of rebranding. It is quite extraordinary how such a young discipline as counter trafficking has already yielded to a chronic loss of short term memory, with all the work of Operations Pentameter (pp16-17) one and two under the leadership of Chief Constable Dr Tim Brain, and the pioneering development of the first multi-agency and inter-departmentally co-operating Centre to address intelligence gathering and strategic advice for United Kingdom Police Forces, the UK Human Trafficking Centre initially based up in Sheffield under the leadership of Assistant Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell, largely forgotten.
What the motives of this rebranding were are not completely clear. However it will repay research efforts to explore the ways in which European politicians have sought over the last decade to move counter trafficking discourse away from explicitly policing and enforcement requirements, to announcing discourse around higher moral and political values being championed by politicians. The inner politics of how power is wielded and distributed across the various arms of state, let alone how states choose to interact with one another across the wider vantage of the geo-political map is also in play in this recent piece of UK reallocation of the names we call gross exploitation by. It should also be noted that when focussing on the depravities of ‘modern day slavery’ our political and socio-economic attention can be steered away from the role which States and Businesses play in rendering millions of global citizens stateless or at appalling risk where lives are lost in thousands through forced migration, forced labour and super exploitation become the only options available to sustain life, gender based violence rises exponentially as summary eviction occurs due to man-made sustainability crises, war, threatened genocides, ecological devastation, from places where people for many generations have formerly called home.
What will be areas to watch for 2016?
This last year has seen unprecedented numbers of refugees and economic migrants seeking to enter the jurisdiction of the European Union without ‘due process’. Whether seeking to access the southern-most point of entry into Europe through Italy, via its first port of call Lampedusa, from North Africa, or cut across from Turkey to the necklace islands of Greece, many thousands of Syrians, Iraqis, Kurds, North Africans, Afghans, Somalis and Eritreans have died in 2015. Their exact number will never be known – though continued deaths experienced on this southern route this year alone will undoubtedly be counted in thousands. The logistics of the refugee and smuggling facilitated genocide, lack the record keeping required to be able to properly estimate the level of the horrors which have been taking place in the Mediterranean and Aegean seas. The International Organisation for Migration have assessed the numbers arriving into Europe through the Adriatic and the Mediterranean as more than 1,011,700 migrants, with only 34,900 accessing European borders by land. These numbers will be extremely tough for public opinion in the European Union to politically stomach, for a number of reasons which requires another thought piece to dismantle – and it has to be announced that set in a global context the numbers on the move north to the European Union are a paltry percentage of the millions of people on the move, seeking safety and economic survival world-wide.
With the civil war in Syria still raging, North Africa yet to emerge from the chaos which followed the displacement of its ‘tyrants’ and the ongoing presence, terror and appeal of Daesh and its associated networks wreaking havoc within the instability of these regions, the refugee crisis which emerged as the number one political crisis for Europe in 2015, will continue to generate anxieties around migration, border security and internal political stability across the Union. There will undoubtedly be ricochets in the world of counter trafficking, and the potential of ‘modern day slavery’ being interjected into discourses to potentially disrupt clarity in thinking, around sustainability and human rights informed immigration policies, asylum requirements , ongoing flexible labour force needs, competing international and national security concerns, social protection and privileging within nation states, and the role ethnic alignment and historical imperial privileging plays out for so many national identities across the globe.
This is a time when informed interventions around smuggling and human trafficking whilst rendering asylum fuelled migration safe across internationally recognised national borders will occupy significant time and thought from all our politicians and their advisers. It is a time when those involved with applied research in this area have a particular responsibility to bring some clarity, assisting policy makers to be fully apprised of the human rights and sustainability framed issues which we are confronted with in a world where there is suffering and terror, as well as great opportunities to join up our thinking and actions with regionally based programmes which recognise the interconnectedness of our political, economic and cultural choices and our inter-regional dependencies. In this the Palermo Protocol on Trafficking in Human Beings was clear – no nation can resist the challenges presented in Human Trafficking alone. All are accountable to each other in the deep and complex processes of resistance, prevention, protection, recovery and socio-economic, cultural, behavioural as well as crimogenic changes required to turn the tide on this particular form of human misery and super exploitation.
 Wood, Helois (18 October 2013). “Old Bexley and Sidcup MP James Brokenshire announces plans to help end human trafficking”. Newshopper