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Photo by Tomáš Petz on Unsplash

Recent reports that cases of modern slavery are on the rise should bring deep shame for a Government which once claimed to care about ending this horrific crime.

It hasn’t always been this way: the 2015 Modern Slavery Act was a groundbreaking piece of legislation that positioned the UK to be world-leaders in tackling this issue. But eight years on, the Government has now backpedaled on its previous iron-clad commitments to end modern slavery once and for all, and the results are plain for all to see.

As well as its world leading provisions on ending modern slavery, the Act meant the Government was committed by law to appoint an Independent Commissioner to hold Ministers to account on the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of slavery and human trafficking offences.

But for nearly 16 months, there has been no Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in place, as the Government failed to appoint a successor when the previous Commissioner left the post.

So, what have Ministers been up to whilst the post remains vacant? In an effort to tackle in the Government’s own words, ‘’the small boat problem’’, controversial changes to the modern slavery system have been pushed through which critics say will make it more difficult to identify and help potential victims of modern slavery.

The result: The Illegal Migration Act – a key piece of legislation which drives a horse and cart through our world leading modern slavery protections and stops victims from claiming asylum in this country.

This is a huge blow to those who have campaigned to end the crime, including many in the co-operative movement.

And sadly, the controversy for the Government doesn’t end there. Reports now say that the lack of an appointment has resulted in a “reduced office” which cannot commission research or publish new work on the issue. This is a huge shift in tone from a government which was once committed to stopping the crime, to one which now completely turns its back on some of the vulnerable people in our society.

It is no accident that the Government pushed through these changes while the Anti-slavery Commissioner post was empty. We cannot let them get away with it, and we certainly must not buy into the Government rhetoric about stopping the boats by denying vital support to those who need it most.

That’s why over the past year, the Co-operative Party called repeatedly on the Home Secretary to appoint a new Commissioner. In line with our long-running campaign to end modern slavery, we’ve made clear to the Government that slow-rolling this vital appointment simply isn’t good enough.

Victims need and deserve an independent watchdog and we believe more must be done to ensure we end modern slavery, so that no one else has to suffer this terrible evil. Join our calls today and together let’s put a stop to modern slavery, in all guises, once and for all.