Modern slavery: Cameron pledges UK firms will be held responsible for child labor, trafficking

Modern slavery: Cameron pledges UK firms will be held responsible for child labor, trafficking
Prime Minister David Cameron will pledge to crackdown on human trafficking by forcing British companies to prove they are working to stop human trafficking and slave labor, it has emerged.

Cameron will promise to force firms with a turnover of £36 million or more to publish annual statements in which they must admit any failures to address slavery or human trafficking in their supply chains.

The PM will announce the plans in Vietnam on Wednesday as part of a wider crackdown on the trafficking of Vietnamese children to the UK, where they are often held in debt bondage and coerced into working in cannabis farms and nail bars.

Vietnam is the fourth biggest source country of human trafficking to the UK, with up to 3,000 Vietnamese children thought to be working in slave labor conditions in Britain today.

Cameron is expected to address the issue during a historic trip to Vietnam, the first visit by a serving British prime minister to the Southeast Asian state.

He is due to say: “It is shocking that thousands of Vietnamese children in the UK are being used for profit by criminal gangs and that dozens more children are estimated to arrive on our shores every month.

That’s why it’s so important that we work with Vietnam to identify what more we can do to tackle this issue together.”

Under new measures laid out in the Modern Slavery Act, large companies will be required to publish annual reports detailing their progress in ensuring slave labor is not used in their supply chain.

Although companies will be within their rights to say they have done nothing to check their supply chain for human slavery, the government believes such an admission would shame the company into action.

Cameron has lauded this latest example of transparency regulation as a “step forward.

Speaking in Singapore before he flew to Hanoi, he said: “This measure is one of the first of its kind in the world and it will be a huge step forward, introducing greater accountability on business for the condition of their supply chains.”

Thames Valley Police staged a mass operation in March involving 150 officers to clamp down on human trafficking across the UK, resulting in 10 arrests.

The force carried out raids at 17 premises across the UK, including nail salons and private properties in Reading, Wokingham, West Berkshire, London and York.

Cameron’s pledge comes after a US State Department report published this week criticized the UK for the inadequacy of its response to child trafficking.

The annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report said: “While (UK) authorities continued to identify a large number of potential trafficking victims, the victim identification and referral system failed to assist many victims of trafficking, particularly children.

Child protection charity ECPAT said the failures of British authorities to identify trafficked children were “unacceptable.”

ECPAT Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns Chloe Setter said: “It is not acceptable that authorities fail to identify those children who have been trafficked or are at risk of trafficking.

And it is unforgivable that we continue to see children going missing from care only to be re-trafficked elsewhere.

The government must ensure it provides sufficient training and resources to local authorities in order to protect children and ensure they have access to the specialist support required to rebuild their young lives,” she added.