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Let's stamp out modern slavery

Eradicating Modern Slavery Conference, Law Centre (NI) 2015, speakers in front of Riddel Hall, QUB, Belfast

'How can we stamp out modern slavery?' was the question explored at a Law Centre conference last Thursday. See an overview, listen to the speakers.

Attentive audience - Law Centre NI Eradicating Modern Slavery Conference 10 Sept 15

Glenn Jordan, Law Centre (NI) Director, opened with an overview of Northern Ireland's history of slavery and of anti-slavery activism, drawing parallels with what needs to be done today.

Anthony Harbinson of the Department of Justice (DoJ), endorsed the conference on behalf of the Minister and explained the role of his Department to an attentive audience. Photo by John Rush.

Kevin Hyland and session 1 speakers by Brian Spencer - Eradicating slavery conference Law Centre NI 10 Sept 15

Session 1: Statutory Obligations to Eradicate Modern Slavery. Illustrated by Brian John Spencer. 

Kevin Hyland, UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner, explained that there are 35 million modern slaves around the world today and 10,000 to 13,000 in the UK. He detailed what measures he would like to put in place to coordinate actions UK-wide, and argued that we all have a part to play.

The message that we all benefit from modern slavery and that we should all contribute to stamping it out was a recurrent theme, echoed by speakers throughout the day.

In this session, Julie Wilson of DoJ explained the provisions of new NI legislation and how it can be used to tackle trafficking and forced labour.

Speakers Caroline Maguire, Gillian McKee, Andrew Wallis - Law Centre NI Eradicating Modern Slavery Conference 10 Sept 15

Session 2: Modern Slavery in the Labour Market, introduced by Caroline Maguire, Employment Legal Adviser at Law Centre (NI). Also in the picture, speakers Gillian McKee of Business in the Community NI, and Andrew Wallis of Unseen. Photo by John Rush.

Claire Falconer, Focus on Labour Exploitation,Deirdre Walsh, Employment Agency Inspectorate (Department for Employment and Learning) and Peter Bunting, Irish Congress of Trade Unions also spoke about the role of government, businesses, workers and consumers in increasing transparency in supply chains. 

Afternoon speakers at Eradicating Modern Slavery conference Law Centre NI 2015

Session 3: Protecting Victims' Rights, focused on supporting victims through the process of recovering, obtaining justice, finding a home and financial support, and suitable employment where possible.

Noelle Collins of Women's Aid, Roger McVicker of Migrant Help and Fidelma O'Hagan, Anti-Trafficking Young People Project Worker at the Law Centre, talked about the role of NGOs in Northern Ireland.

Klara SKrivankova of Anti-Slavery International, gave an overview of the National Referral Mechanism, the system currently in place to identify and support victims of trafficking, and how it could be reformed to serve victims' best interest. 

Lord Morrow MLA followed, explaining his hopes on how the new Human Trafficking and Exploitation law could help provide a strong deterrent to traffickers and offer better protection and support for those who have been trafficked in Northern Ireland. Photo by John Rush.

Employment rights regardless of immigration status - a slide from Focus on Labour Exploitation's presentation

Ursula O'Hare, Assistant Director (Policy and Communications), summed up the debate and explained the Law Centre's hopes for coordinated action from DoJ and DEL to improve support for people in forced labour and labour exploitation but who do not fall into the category of victims of trafficking.

Statistics show, and speakers throughout the day agreed, that the vast majority of people in forced labour are in the country legally, and they must not be forgotten by law makers. 

Ursula asserted the Law Centre's view that, in order to help victims of trafficking and forced labour, labour rights must come first, regardless of immigration status.

Strict immigration enforcement and restrictions on social security support for migrant workers and refugees can have the perverse effect of driving people into labour exploitation.

She also made a promise to conference that the Law Centre will update its guide to migrant workers rights in the coming months.

See a summary of the day by blogger and political commentator Alan Meban.

Listen to the speakers, courtesy of Alan, here:

An interesting perspective of the conference, with an interview of Kevin Hyland, can also be found in Ryan Miller's article in Scope NI: Can Slavery be Defeated?

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