23 August - International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition
On a key UNESCO date, David Wood looks at the challenges of rescuing and rehabilitating victims of modern slavery.
23 August is the anniversary of the 1791 rising of enslaved men and women in the west of Santo Domingo, which, on proclaiming its independence reverted to its original Amerindian name of Haiti.
The uprising represented a universal demand for freedom for all of humanity without distinction of origin or religion, and continues to resonate now with undiminished force.
UNESCO adopted 23 August as ‘International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition’, aiming to highlight the fight against all forms of oppression and racism today, but the sad fact remains that there are more slaves in the world today than were ever enslaved in those earlier centuries.
1791 triggered a wave of liberation struggles and human and civil rights movements for over 200 years, and today it is equally relevant to the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking.
A way forward with Hope for Justice
ICAS is working with Hope for Justice, a global non-profit organisation which aims to end human trafficking and modern-day slavery, by raising awareness of a ‘Slave-Free Alliance’ kitemark, and promoting the issue of modern slavery to the profession and the business community.
Hope for Justice provides training in how to spot the signs of modern slavery and how to respond, and work with police and other agencies to rescue victims and then restore and rebuild their lives.
CAs can take immediate steps to contribute to the work:
1. Businesses with a turnover above £36m are required to prepare a slavery and human trafficking statement – share these seven key steps to writing a statement.
2. Get in touch with your questions on modern slavery, Hope for Justice and the Slave-Free Alliance kitemark.
3. Auditors and assurance professionals can read Professor Muhammad Azizul Islam’s article: Tackling Modern Slavery: What Role can Accountants Play?
4. Businesses of all sizes and sectors can join the Slave-Free Alliance.
5. Visit the Hope for Justice website.
For the victims of modern slavery, what does recovery look like?
Leaving exploitation is merely the first step in the journey of gaining full freedom. Victims need to rebuild their lives - often from scratch - whilst needing to recover from the trauma of what has happened to them.
Most people Hope for Justice work with have symptoms of psychological trauma, including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
They may have trouble sleeping, difficulty trusting others, panic attacks, flashbacks or memory loss. Almost everyone needs medical support for physical health problems including; malnutrition, tooth decay, infections, STIs and substance misuse issues.
Real emotional recovery can only really begin once a person has physical stability – accommodation and a stable income.
Unfortunately, there is no direct route to long-term support for survivors of modern slavery in the UK and accessing the most basic necessities requires navigating several complex areas of law and regulations.
Survivors face a plethora of issues, including debts accrued by traffickers, discrimination in the workplace, navigating the criminal justice system and seeking compensation.
Hope for Justice’s ‘Modern Slavery Advocates’ help people to recover and to receive the help they need.
The Slave-Free Alliance led to another rescue by Hope for Justice. After working closely with a UK-wide recruitment agency to target modern slavery, they helped a courageous employee who came forward to ask for help.
When Sonia* came to the UK, she was forced into modern slavery and didn't know where to turn. Now, Hope for Justice teams are working to ensure she gets the support she needs.
With their support, Sonia is trying to overcome severe trauma following her trafficking experience, and its long-term effects on her physical and mental health.
Fortunately, she is excelling in the Co-op's Bright Future programme, which offers survivors of modern slavery the opportunity of a paid work placement and a great chance for a permanent job. Hope for Justice is proud to be a charity partner to Bright Future, working with Co-op.
Sonia's engagement in this programme is a great personal success for her and an encouragement for others that, with the right support, recovery is possible.
(*Name changed to protect identity)