Justice Minister, David Ford has outlined new legislation that will require commercial organisations over a certain size to take greater steps to ensure there is no slavery or trafficking within their supply chains.
The world-leading Transparency in Supply Chains provision is expected to come into force under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 later this month, subject to Parliamentary approval. This provision will extend to Northern Ireland and will place a duty on businesses in the United Kingdom who have a turnover in excess of £36million to set out their actions to ensure that there is no modern slavery in their organisation and their global supply chain.
David Ford said: “Human Trafficking and slavery-like practices are an abuse of basic human rights. They have a harrowing effect on victims. We have made good progress with new legislation, heightened awareness and better protection and support for victims. The commencement of this new Order is another important step forward. It will put a legal onus on companies to take greater responsibility for the work being done within their organisations and will help in the fight against these dreadful crimes.”
The Minister also commended the publication of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s first Strategic Plan.
David Ford said: “I believe that Kevin Hyland has produced a comprehensive and challenging plan that clearly sets out the strategic direction for tackling modern slavery in the United Kingdom over the next two years. I am pleased that my Department helped develop the plan. This Plan will assist in increasing the numbers of victims that are removed from situations of modern slavery and the number of traffickers and enslavers who are brought to justice.”
The Strategic Plan identifies five key priorities: Victim identification and care; Driving an improved law enforcement response; Promoting best practice in partnership working; Private sector engagement to encourage supply chain transparency; and International collaboration. Each of these priorities is underpinned by a range of challenging actions.
In addition, David Ford contributed to a report published collectively by the UK-wide Ministerial Group on Modern Slavery which will be published on 19 October. This report will include an update on the work that has been driven forward in Northern Ireland over the past twelve months to tackle human trafficking and slavery.
The publication of these documents coincide with Anti-Slavery Day, an annual event which sees countries across the EU undertake a range of awareness raising activities in the week leading up to and the week following 18 October. David Ford has welcomed the awareness raising efforts made by Members of the Department’s Human Trafficking Engagement Group.
He said: “As with previous years, civil society organisations have been instrumental in organising events to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day. The launch of a competition for primary school classes and a series of seminars for healthcare professionals working in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust are two examples of initiatives to raise awareness of the dehumanising crimes of human trafficking and slavery amongst specific groups.
“As Minister I am grateful for all the work done by our voluntary partners.”