William Wilberforce headed the parliamentary campaign against the British slave trade for twenty-six years before the Slave Trade Act was passed in 1807. His later campaigning resulted in the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 which abolished slavery in most of the British Empire.
Over 200 years later, trafficking in human beings is in the premier league of organised crime. The three most lucrative criminal activities in the world are the trafficking of humans, guns and drugs. Men, women and children of all nationalities are victims.
And it is happening right now, not just in cities but in towns and villages across the country.
Human trafficking is often considered politically as "worthy" but "unfixable". Add to this the fact that victims are often terrified of the authorities, fear deportation, face language barriers, are out of the public eye and without a vote - and it is no wonder that it seldom scores highly on the radar of politicians.
Surely every Member of Parliament must take some collective responsibility to help complete Wilberforce's work. He would be appalled to know that this All Party Group was even necessary in 2015.
The APPG's task is to:-
- raise awareness of the extent and dangers of human trafficking (modern slavery) in the 21st century;
- encourage parliamentarians throughout Europe to take concerted action;
- identify and push for practical solutions;
- foster parliamentary cooperation across borders and so spearhead new initiatives;
- ensure that victims of trafficking have the proper support measures as outlined in the Council of Europe Convention on Human Trafficking and not be forced to return home against their wishes.
The APPG is assisted in its work by the Human Trafficking Foundation (HTF), who act as Secretariat.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union has as Chapter 1, Article 1 the following:
"Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected."
The words exist. Now action must match the rhetoric.
Since 2006, we have made some progress including:
- the establishment of similar groups in 9 other parliaments in the EU;
- asking Government Ministers approximately 750 Oral and Written Parliamentary Questions as well as initiating more than a dozen parliamentary debates;
- raising, with the help of the UK press, greater awareness of the human trafficking dimensions including debt bondage, domestic slavery, child slavery and sex trafficking;
- and last, but by no means least, thanks in large part to the tremendous work of the Group, we now have a Modern Slavery Act (2015) and a Government Modern Slavery Strategy.
However, we have really only scratched the surface. Much more must be done in terms of awareness, professional training, and above all concerted action!
Damian Green MP, Shadow Home Office Minister for Immigration:
Many kind things have rightly been said about my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen). All I would add is that what he has done is an absolute model of how one can use an all-party group to shift public policy forward an inch or two. I speak as someone who is sceptical of the proliferation of all-party groups in the past few years. One's faith in the system is almost restored by what my hon. Friend and others from all parties have done.
Hansard, Westminster Hall, 20 Jan 2010 : Column 121WH