A draft bill to address the issue of modern slavery in Britain was presented to the U.K. Parliament for its consideration by the Secretary for Home Theresa May earlier this week.

Calling the draft bill “an important start”, Ms. May said she intended to publish a Modern Slavery Action Plan in the spring “which will set out a comprehensive response to this complex crime”.

Based upon the recommendations of a white paper prepared by the a three-member Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review panel, the bill comes soon after the emergence of a shocking case of human bondage in London, the details of which are still getting unravelled and being understood.

The rescue of three women from a so-called commune in south London which they had joined out of political conviction thirty years ago, only to find that over the years they had become captives of their oppressive ideological mentor and his wife, is a pointer to the very complex forms that servitude and bondage can take.

The draft bill, which the government claims is the first of its kind in Europe, seeks to amalgamate existing laws prohibiting human trafficking and slavery offences to make prosecution easier. It will increase the maximum sentence for trafficking to life imprisonment; create the post of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner who will “galvanise law enforcement’s efforts to tackle modern slavery”; and make it mandatory for businesses to ensure that their supply chains do not employ illegal labour practices. The Review Panel, in its comprehensive evidence-based report, said that the trafficking trade is “worth a minimum of $32 billion a year and is either the second or third (depending on the method of calculation) most profitable of all illicit trades, behind only the illegal drugs trade, and, by some measures, the arms trade.”

According to the government, in the U.K., individuals from over 95 countries have been referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

The top ten source countries accounted for 68 per cent of all NRM referrals in 2012.

The highest were from Nigeria with 205 referrals, Vietnam (135), Albania (128), Romania (74) and China (55). Among the ten source countries, the U.K. accounted for 33 referrals in 2012. India falls in the top 20.

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