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"Modern slavery, in terms of human trafficking… is a crime against humanity"
Declaration by Pope Francis on International Day for the Abolition of Slavery,2014

The Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery (CSMS) was established in 2015 by Dr Carole Murphy, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology at St Mary's University. The key objectives of the Centre were set out at an initial launch in March 2015 in which the Vice Chancellor Francis Campbell introduced key note speakers, including the first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner for the UK and Honorary Professor at St Mary’s University, Mr Kevin Hyland OBE, Bishop Pat Lynch from the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) and Cecilia Taylor-Camara, Senior Policy Advisor for CBCEW and survivor and campaigner Diane Martin CBE.

Well attended by NGOs, media, policy makers and academics from St Mary’s and other institutions, the event demonstrated the commitment of St Mary’s University to developing a centre of excellence to provide an evidence base that would impact on addressing human trafficking and modern slavery in all its manifestations.

The appointment of the first director, Dr Sasha Jesperson, in October 2016 presented an opportunity to raise the profile of the Centre and develop a new strategy for future research. Dr Jesperson was instrumental in organising the first international conference in February 2017, during which the Centre was officially launched.

More than 150 delegates were in attendance, including policy makers, academics, law enforcement, NGOs, and other practitioners. As well as hearing about cutting edge research, policy, practice and policing, the conference was a fantastic opportunity for networking and developing interdisciplinary projects.

The Centre aims

The Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery (CSMS) at St Mary's University was established to provide a comprehensive response to modern slavery and human trafficking across three areas of activity:

  • Evaluation and Applied Research
  • Education, Advocacy and Awareness Raising
  • Prevention, Policy and Practice

The Centre draws on the expertise of internal and external partners. Academic staff from across the University in the departments of Criminology, Sociology, Law, Business, Film and Media, and Bioethics, and Visiting Research Fellows with expertise in social work, policing, evaluation, corporate social responsibility, business and survivor support are actively involved.

External partners include the Santa Marta Group, Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Kevin Hyland, the former Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and Visiting Professor at St Mary's University, the UK Government, other academic institutions, campaigners, international organisations and NGOs.

The Centre is part of Cardinal Vincent Nichols initiative to tackle modern slavery and is one of three dimensions that includes Bakhita House and the Santa Marta group for co-ordination with law enforcement and NGOs and governments.

The UK government in particular is taking a strong stance on modern slavery and is dedicating significant resources to prevent and pursue this phenomenon, which has been described by Pope Francis as a 'crime against humanity'. While this new determination brings us closer to eradicating slavery, government responses continue to be hampered by key knowledge gaps.

The Centre has been working with government departments to identify these gaps, generating empirical evidence to make the response more targeted, and generate better results for those subject to slavery and trafficking.

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. 

The three strands: recent activities

Evaluation and applied research

Education, advocacy and awareness raising

Prevention, policy and practice

  • Modern Slavery Innovation Fund study into organized crime involvement in facilitating modern slavery and human trafficking
  • Report with policy implications: A Game of Chance? Long-term support for Survivors of Modern Slavery

Articles and news

The UK Modern Slavery Act: Victim identification and care

Ensuring the protection of victims of human trafficking is regarded as one of the most important aspects of the Modern Slavery Act (MSA). The focus on victim care, the intention to reduce harm caused by slavery and to improve support for victims has been welcomed, especially by first responders, including NGOs and law enforcement... Read the full article...

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