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The Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse, named after the St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of trafficking, was launched in 2021 at St Mary’s University.

The Centre was created to continue the work of the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery and to recognise the development of a broader research remit that takes account of intersections of other factors within human trafficking and modern slavery.

Although initially focused only on modern slavery, our research addresses broader issues to do with inequality on a global scale including gender-based violence, sexual exploitation and associated discrimination based on structural inequalities, race, ethnicity, asylum seeking/refugee and migrant status. The research also takes account of the intersection of factors that produce precarious situations for people, including migration due to conflict, corruption, and lack of economic resources, and helps to illustrate how this makes people vulnerable to exploitation. Through applied research, the Centre aims to address failures and limitations of statutory systems to protect victims of trafficking, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation; and offer understanding on the underlying issues.

Since its establishment in 2015, the Centre has built up a strong network of partners in civil society, law enforcement, other universities, and government, and draws on the expertise of internal and external partners. Honorary Research Fellows active in the Centre have expertise in social work, policing, business, tackling organised crime, and survivor support. Internal partners at St Mary’s include academic experts in Criminology, Law, Media, Business and Education. These partnerships enable the Centre to approach the multifaceted issue of modern slavery and human trafficking from a wide-ranging perspective.

The Centre also works closely with NGOs to identify gaps in service provision for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking and to recommend changes to policy and practice. Over the years, it has also worked with government departments to identify gaps in knowledge, generating empirical evidence to make the response more targeted, and generate better results for those subject to slavery and trafficking. The Centre’s work will continue to impact on policy, practice and prevention through applied research, education, training and awareness raising.

History of the Centre

The Bakhita Centre, formerly known as the Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery was established in 2015 as a ‘flagship’ research centre, part of St Mary’s University’s commitment to respond to the growing scale of human trafficking and slavery in the UK and across the globe. In 2014, the Home Office estimated that there were 10-13,000 potential victims of modern slavery exploited in the UK alone. Worldwide, the figure for those who are subject to human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced labour is estimated at over 40m.

The Centre is part of Cardinal Vincent Nichols' initiative to combat slavery and trafficking, along with Bakhita House (a London-based safe-house for trafficked women) and the Santa Marta group which seeks to co-ordinate the efforts of law enforcement authorities, NGOs, and governments worldwide. The Centre's role is to support this initiative with research which will feed into anti-slavery and human trafficking policy at the highest level, in the UK and internationally, and to contribute to education and awareness raising. 

In the news

Practitioner Responses to Child Trafficking: Emerging Good Practice podcast

Dr Ruth Van Dyke recently appeared as a guest on a Cumberland Lodge podcast to reflect on key themes from the first session of our October 2021 conference, Practitioner Responses to Child Trafficking: Emerging Good Practice.

South west London legal charity calls for awareness on World Day Against Trafficking

Dr Ruth van Dyke spoke to SWLondoner about her work relating to police competencies in tackling trafficking.

London Higher newsletter

News of the relaunch of the Bakhita Centre was featured in the March edition of the London Higher newsletter.