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Increased Focus on Human Trafficking called for at Launch of St Mary's Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery

Aiming to use and share research to fill the knowledge and evidence gaps experienced by policymakers and practitioners, the first International Conference on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking at St Mary’s University, Twickenham took place today (February 8th).

The Conference, that also officially marked the launch of the University’s Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, provided a space to promote debate. The event also encouraged collaboration on addressing the subject of human trafficking and modern slavery, and included contributions from UK and international experts and was chaired by Sasha Jesperson, the Director of the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery at St Mary’s.

The event began at midday with a Mass for St Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese-born former slave who became a Canossian Religious Sister, celebrated by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols Archbishop of Westminster and St Mary’s University Chancellor, and held in the University’s Chapel.

Vice-Chancellor of St Mary’s University, Francis Campbell commented, “I am delighted that St Mary’s is able to welcome policymakers, practitioners and researchers from across the globe to our London campus.

“It is a unique opportunity to push our research capabilities forward collectively. I am pleased St Mary’s is playing a leading role in what will be a thoughtful but tenacious approach to tackling this most important of issues.”

As part of the opening panel session, the Independent Anti-slavery Commission updated delegates on the current response to modern slavery in the UK, noting in particular the focus needed on tailoring research to meet current needs and strengthening the capabilities of law enforcement to better suit the needs of victims. Speakers from Nigeria, Albania and international organisations including the International Labour Organisation reviewed the global response.

Sasha Jespersen welcomed the outcomes of the first day and the formal establishment of the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, “It is clear from today's discussion that a number of evidence gaps are hampering our response to modern slavery. It is these gaps the Centre seeks to fill."

The conference will continue over two further days, culminating on Friday 10th February 2017. Other high profile speakers include:

  • Minister Elona Gjebrea Hoxha,Ministry of Interior, Albania;
  • Caroline Haughey,Barrister, Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act, 2016;
  • Professor Bernard Silverman, Chief Scientific Adviser, Home Office;
  • Kate Roberts, Human Trafficking Foundation;
  • Professor Kokunre Agbontaen-Eghafona,University of Benin, Nigeria;
  • James Cockayne, United Nations University;
  • Monique Villa, Thompson Reuters Foundation;
  • Beate Andrees,International Labour Organisation.

On Thursday morning (February 9th), delegates will debate the differing priorities of Government departments and key evidence gaps. The subsequent panels will then focus on where research is going and identify areas for further examination.

Speaking of the forthcoming Agenda, Sasha said, “From a detailed intelligence picture of the networks that facilitate slavery and trafficking, to upstream initiatives to prevent slavery and support vulnerable individuals, the scope of our debate is considerable.

“There is still much we don’t know and throughout the remainder of this conference – and beyond as a dedicated Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery - we are completely committed to further understanding, and combatting, modern slavery.”

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