Is Modern Day Slavery right in front of our eyes?

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Today is National Freedom Day, a day celebrated by Americans for over 70 years. While there is certainly cause for celebration, Slavery hasn’t been completely abolished and still exists for hundreds of people across the country.

Modern slavery isn’t so much about people owning other people and more about being exploited and controlled by someone else without having the choice to leave.

It can affect anyone, however, most commonly, slavery targets people and communities who are vulnerable.

National Freedom Day all began when Major Richard Robert Wright Sr, American civil rights advocate, politician and former slave, believed, that Americans should celebrate their freedom.

He invited national and local leaders to meet and to organize a movement that would commemorate the signing of the 13th Amendment by A. Lincoln.

One significant example of modern slavery is Budget nail bars, something that has recently taken over our high streets by storm. Cheaper than traditional beauty salons, with no appointment required, they appeal to our desire for a bargain and need for instant gratification.

The dangerous thing is, we expect all of this without wanting to interact with the person behind the mask providing our treatment.

So what are we doing about this? Members of Stoke-on-Trent City Council voted unanimously in favour of a motion which commits the authority, its staff and councillors, to take steps to tackle modern day slavery.

Councillor Andy Platt, who proposed the motion, told the full council meeting that the city will continue to fight modern day slavery in Stoke-on-Trent.

 He said: “This city has a proud history with regards to fighting slavery. The very famous William Wilberforce, when he was on the trail to get slavery abolished, stopped in the city with Josiah Wedgwood, who was also a major advocate of abolishing slavery.  

“So isn’t it such a shame and really abhorrent that in this day and age, in this city, we still find slavery, I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories about car washes, takeaway restaurants, etc, and we’ve also heard of the enslavement of young people in the sex industry.

“All this is happening today. Someone once said it’s hiding in clear view. We need to get in there and find out what’s going on and do what we can to tackle it.”

Mr. Platt’s motion calls on the council to undertake a series of actions aimed at tackling modern slavery. These include teaching the authority’s corporate procurement team more about modern slavery, and challenging any ‘abnormally low-cost’ tenders to ensure they do not rely on slavery.  

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 consolidated existing slavery and trafficking offences, and introduced other measures aimed at tackling slavery, including the creation of an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.  

However, the Act hasn’t yet solved the issue as the amount of Modern-Day Slavery investigations from the West Midlands Police increased by a mind-blowing 373 cases from 2014 to 2017, from just 27 in 2014 to a massive 400 in 2017. It was also revealed that a very bleak 10 people were charged with the offences in 2017.  

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