Britain shifts focus to modern day enslavement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, March 28, 2007 – Having expressed its regret over the African Slave Trade of centuries ago, the British government is now focus and launching a worldwide campaign against “contemporary forms of slavery”.

Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney, in a statement released by the British High Commission here, said that today’s slavery practices involve millions of people and cover a number of human rights violations from forced labour to forced marriage; bonded labour to people trafficking; child labour to slavery by descent which affects the poorest and most vulnerable groups in societies around the world.

However, he admitted that it is very difficult to uncover and resolve because fear and the need for survival deter its victims from coming forward. 

“The  international community must take its inspiration from the determination and courage of the abolitionists of 200 years ago and work together to end this scourge. For our part, the Foreign Office is working hard across the world to end slavery.  We are launching a worldwide lobbying campaign on the ratification and implementation of international standards that prohibit slavery.  Later in the year, we will be hosting a high-level conference with the Department for International Development (DfID) on the links between slavery, poverty and development, which we hope will lead to more effective collaboration to tackle these interrelated issues.”

McCartney said that slavery had been a longstanding concern to Britain.

“In 1823 the Foreign Office established a Slave Trade Department, devoted to the monitoring of the application of international agreements relating to the suppression of the slave trade. Today promoting human rights is a cornerstone of our foreign policy and part of our ongoing work.  It underpins our efforts to promote peace and prevent conflict, enhancing global commerce and prosperity, promoting good governance and making development sustainable.  

“This week I will be talking each day about a different aspect of contemporary slavery in different parts of the world, and the FCO’s contribution to tackling it.  The Trans-Atlantic slave trade of two centuries ago scars the conscience of the world today. We must not let our lack of action today be a scar on the conscience of future generations,”  he said.