Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster

Slaves on Our Streets

As part of the The Evening Standard’s special investigation into the issue of modern slavery in autumn 2017, Cardinal Vincent convened a round table of experts from business, media, law, finance, philanthropy, and law enforcement and victim support. Following a series of meetings, the round table produced a report, which was presented first to key figures in Government and then in February to Pope Francis at the Santa Marta Conference in the Vatican.

In the introduction to the report, the Cardinal writes:Human trafficking and modern slavery is an evil crying out to heaven, an open wound on the body of society. It strips people of their fundamental dignity, reducing each person to the status of a commodity. That there are more than 40 million people callously held in slavery in the world today is a mark of shame for us all. It demands our response. The challenge for all of us is to rescue, protect, assist and serve all of those held in slavery.

It is essential that we see the human face of every victim of trafficking. Each one is a daughter or a son, a mother or a father. Each slave is a person with a story. It is our duty to remind ourselves constantly of this truth and not succumb to indifference.
It is in our power to rid the world of slavery and human trafficking. We have the ability to do so, but do we have the will?

Today, organised crime is winning. There are more slaves today than at the height of the Atlantic slave trade in the 18th century. And the number is growing as international criminal gangs increase their influence and reach. Remarkable work is being done by religious sisters and other groups in caring for survivors in trafficking: by some businesses who offer a pathway to work and reintegration for these survivors; and by some financial institutions in tracking ill-gotten profits. However, today we are losing the fight against trafficking as our collective response is uncoordinated and fragmented.

In bringing together this expert panel, we have fashioned recommendations in the hope of shaping a coordinated response to defeat the criminals, rescue victims of trafficking and care for the survivors.

Businesses must recognise the problem and clean up their supply chains, for no businesses are immune from slavery in their supply chains. Banks and the City must recognise the problem of money laundering and ensure organised crime is traced and halted. Local government must identify and crack down on those local businesses such as nail bars and car washes, which are often places of modern slavery.

Your awareness of this outrageous abuse of our fellow human beings is essential. We can make modern slavery simply unacceptable. For with awareness comes a determination to act. As citizens, we must hold our elected officials and law enforcement agencies to account. We must use our consumer choices to reward businesses which offer goods and services free from the abuse of slavery and refuse those who do not. Businesses which put profit above human dignity should be punished, both by law enforcement and by consumer pressure. It is in our gift collectively to combat human trafficking and rid the world of slavery.

For more information about the findings of the report, visit