To stem modern day slavery, Britain has implemented a new law under which human traffickers could be punished with life imprisonment, London-based Asian Lite daily reported .
The maximum jail sentence for traffickers has been increased from 14 years to life imprisonment under the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act, 2015. It allows the authorities to seize traffickers’ assets and force them to pay compensation to their victims.
The new law also brings in measures to protect people feared at risk of being enslaved and requires businesses to disclose what action they have taken to ensure their supply chains are free of slave labour, the daily added.
“The Modern Slavery Act, 2015, is an historic milestone. This landmark legislation sends the strongest possible signal to criminals that if you are involved in this vile trade, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up. And it says to victims, you are not alone — we are here to help you,” Home Secretary Theresa May said.
The British Home Office estimates there were up to 13,000 victims of human trafficking in Britain in 2013, most of them from South Asian countries including India, and Albania, Nigeria, Vietnam and Romania. British dailies recently carried reports of Indian victims, mainly from Punjab, living under a bridge in London despite harsh weather conditions.
The law was passed amid concerns that not enough was being done to stop slavery, with estimates that as many as 36 million people worldwide were being used, bought, sold or transported for exploitation.
The British government said it was fighting for the Bill to be passed on the United Nations day of remembrance for victims of slavery.
“I want to pay tribute to the campaigners, organisations, and parliamentarians of all parties for their hard work and determination to shine a light on this hidden crime and for helping to shape this law,” May said.
“Our work is far from over, and everyone in all sectors of society must play their part. But we as a nation can be proud that today we are closer to consigning slavery to the history books where it belongs.”
Having undergone extensive parliamentary and public scrutiny, the Modern Slavery Act is one of the final pieces of legislation to be put on the statute books by this government.
The act also establishes Britain’s first ever independent anti-slavery commissioner to drive forward the law enforcement response and hold them to account at all levels, ensuring that the perpetrators are caught and prosecuted and that the victims are swiftly identified so they can get help.
“Through the passing of the Modern Slavery Act the UK has the opportunity to once again lead the fight against this cruel trade in human life. But we must be clear that this is just the first step,” Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Kevin Hyland OBE told Asian Lite.
“My role has been created to spearhead the UK’s response both domestically and internationally and to ensure agencies use the new legislation to its full potential, whilst crucially also calling to account those that fail to deliver.”
Alongside the passage of the Bill, the government published a Modern Slavery Strategy outlining a comprehensive response to the crime. This includes efforts across government and law enforcement, work with other countries to tackle the problem at source, and increased awareness within all communities.
The move comes as the government announced on Thursday that The Salvation Army has been appointed to continue the provision of the government’s Victim Care Contract to manage the support of adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales.