End Modern Day Slavery Initiatives

Suyin Haynes, Time Magazine

By Suyin Haynes, read the original article here.

The landmark Modern Slavery Act of 2015 in the U.K. consolidated a variety of criminal offences into a single piece of legislation under the umbrella term of modern slavery. The law requires organizations conducting business in the U.K. with worldwide revenues of at least £36 million ($45 million) to produce and publish an annual slavery and trafficking statement each year. Five years earlier, California introduced similar legislation requiring companies to be transparent about what they are doing to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains. The approach is becoming more widespread: earlier this year, the Dutch Senate voted to adopt a child labor due diligence law also focused on supply chains. But some experts say there are still shortcomings in terms of compliance, as businesses in the U.K. in particular are not forced to investigate or pinpoint slavery in their supply chains and do note receive penalties. “You’re not going to find the needle of slavery in your haystack of supplies,” says Westlake. “Transparency doesn’t necessarily lead to action.”

Instead, Westlake suggests the U.K. could learn from countries like France and Australia. In February 2018, the French Parliament introduced a new law requiring businesses to identify risks to human rights and the environment in their operations. Although the law’s criteria means it applies to fewer businesses than the U.K.’s Modern Slavery Act, businesses have more specific requirements to follow when publishing their reports on the issue. The French law also allows victims and concerned parties to bring a case to a judge if a company defaults on its obligations to publish and implement its vigilance plan; fines of as much as 10 million euros can be incurred if companies are found to have failed to comply. “The French system is by far the best because it does have sanctions,” says Hyland.

Tougher penalties for businesses

Earlier this year, the Australian government introduced its own Modern Slavery Act, which similarly requires businesses to publish a statement on the risks of modern slavery in their supply chains. Statements will be available on a publicly available register published by the Australian government. In February, the Australian Institute of Criminology estimated that there were up to 1900 victims of modern slavery in 2015/16 and in 2016/2017, and that only one in five victims are actually detected. “It is still very early days, but we have seen increased awareness of and engagement around modern slavery since the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act, particularly from the business community,” says Carolyn Liaw, researcher at Anti-Slavery Australia, a legal and research center supporting victims of trafficking and slavery.

While supply chains have come into focus, advocates say still not enough is being done to help victims of slavery and trafficking. In Australia, Liaw says “limited awareness” among frontline staff and government workers of the warning signs and how to respond to modern slavery may have contributed to the estimated 80% of victims that go unidentified in the country. According to police, Australia is primarily a destination country for people trafficked from Asia, in particular Thailand, Korea, the Philippines and Malaysia