News Centre

The Reality of a Situation - Modern Slavery in the 21st Century

Over 50% of human trafficking in Britain comes through London. The Catholic Church has spoken out about the issue of modern slavery and Archbishop Vincent is a strong supporter of anti-slavery charities who are working to eradicate something that belongs, and needs to return to, the past.

Catholics in England and Wales observed the Memorial of St Josephine Bakhita - 8 February - as a Day of Prayer for Victims of Human Trafficking and Those who Work to Combat It. It was an opportunity for people to remember and pray for the victims and survivors of trafficking throughout the world and those who work to end this form of modern slavery.

Pope Francis has spoken widely on the issue describing human trafficking as “a disgrace for our societies” and Archbishop Vincent has said that “Human trafficking and its terrible effects are a blight on our society. We need to learn more about the hidden way in which people are exploited dreadfully and left in need of great help.”

Slavery sadly very much a reality

With the release of the new Oscar-nominated film 12 Years a Slave this month, filmgoers can look back with shock and horror at the way slaves were treated during the 19th century by their fellow men and congratulate themselves for moving past such barbaric acts. And yet, slavery still exists in our world today in a new, unseen way, described in the media and by anti-slavery campaigners as ‘modern slavery’. This exists in a variety of ways; forced labour, bonded labour, human trafficking, forced marriage, or forced criminal activities. 

International Labour Organisation estimates that there are around 21 million people in forced labour around the world today, with Mauritania, Haiti, Pakistan, and India the worst offenders on the international stage. An estimated 10% of India’s population is thought to have been affected, mainly through forced marriages.

The UK is also not free from modern slavery, and media bring new stories almost on a daily basis. In 2012 officially there was around 1100 cases referred officially to UK authorities as potential victims of trafficking. According to Walk Free’s Slavery Index, it is believed there are between 4,200-4,600 people in slavery in the UK so to think that the problem does not exist here would be wrong

For further information on modern slavery in the UK please visit the website of Anti-Slavery International www.antislavery.org.  Anti-Slavery is an organisation founded on the back of the campaign that abolished slavery in the 19th century. Today it works to eradicate all forms of modern day slavery around the world and campaigns on the issue in the UK.

The Diocese of Westminster endorses the anti-trafficking campaign of the Metropolitan Police 'Stop traffickers controlling you. You make the call.' Freephone 0800 783 2589

Comment on this story