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St Mary’s University Launches Human Exploitation Research Centre

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St Mary’s University, Twickenham has today launched its new Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse, named in honour of St Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.

The new Centre was launched at an online event on the Feast Day of St Josephine Bakhita, and featured a range of speakers including St Mary’s Chancellor and Archbishop of Westminster HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols and the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner Dame Sara Thornton.

The Bakhita Centre was born out of the now closed Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, which opened at St Mary’s in 2015, to broaden the University’s research on global issues surrounding inequality. This includes gender-based violence, sexual and other forms of exploitation, abuse and discrimination based on structural inequalities, race, ethnicity, asylum seeking/refugee and migrant status.

The launch also heard from academics and students in the Centre, and partner practitioners on active research and developments in the field. This included Karen Anstiss, Service Manager of the Caritas Bakhita House, a refuge for women escaping human trafficking, who spoke on partnerships and working with service providers. Director of the Snowdrop Project, Lara Bundock, also spoke on the National Training Standards Framework to Support Victims and Survivors of Modern Slavery, which was launched in partnership with St Mary’s in 2020.

Speaking of the new Centre, HE Cardinal Vincent Nichols said, “I am proud to see St Mary’s develop and progress its activity in researching the crimes of human exploitation. Combating modern slavery, exploitation and abuse are core missions of the global Catholic Church through the Santa Marta Group. I look forward to seeing the important interventions the Bakhita Centre will be making in these areas.”

Dame Sara Thornton added, “I’m pleased to see the work at St Mary’s University enter an exciting new phase of research, training and education in this important area. As the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, I have seen first-hand the crucial role that practitioners play in supporting those affected by trafficking and exploitation. Understanding what works from the survivor-centred and trauma-informed approaches of experts is essential.”

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