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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 was established in 2015 as 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.

The Centre is part of Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ initiative to combat slavery and trafficking, together with Bakhita House (a London-based safe-house for trafficked women) and the Santa Marta Group (an international alliance of police chiefs and bishops from around the world working together with civil society in a process endorsed by Pope Francis, to eradicate human trafficking and modern day slavery).

The Centre has built up a strong network of partners in civil society, law enforcement, universities and government. Visiting Research Fellows active in the Centre have expertise in social work, policing, business, organised crime and survivor support, and internal partners at St Mary’s include academic experts in law, media, bioethics and criminology. This enables the Centre to approach the multifaceted issue of modern slavery and human trafficking from a wide-ranging perspective.

The three main areas of the Centre’s activities are:

  • Evaluation and Research
  • Education, Advocacy and Awareness Raising
  • Special Projects 

Evaluation and Research

Significant projects undertaken by the Centre include research for the UK Home Office on the role of organised crime in human trafficking and modern slavery from Nigeria, Albania and Vietnam, and an analysis of the gaps in current support provision for survivors of modern slavery in the UK (A Game of Chance? Long-term support for victims of modern slavery). The Centre has also carried out independent evaluations of support providers for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking.

Education, Advocacy and Awareness-Raising

The Centre has established an MA in Human trafficking, Migration and Organised Crime, which will enter its third year in September 2019. This unique postgraduate programme offers UK and international students the opportunity to study modern slavery and human trafficking from a wide and interdisciplinary perspective. Many graduates of this course continue to work in the field of modern slavery, and increasingly constitute a network of ‘agents for change’.

The Centre is committed to wider awareness-raising, training and education, and has delivered sessions to diverse audiences, from local to international.  Such audiences include the Global Sustainability Network, the National Board of Catholic Women, the UK’s Ministry of Defence, Doctors of the World, the Crossways Literary Festival in Glasgow, and sixth-form students. The Centre has also advised the UK’s National Crime Agency.

In March 2019, working with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, the Centre co-hosted a conference on the role of faith-based organisations in tackling modern slavery. Participants were from the faith-based world as well as from government, NGOs and academia. In May 2019 the Centre co-hosted a conference at St Mary’s to launch the results of an MOD-sponsored research project on assessing the risks of modern slavery in conflict situations.

Special Projects

The Centre is currently running a number of donor-funded special projects, including one (funded by the Albert Gubay Charitable Foundation) to develop and conduct a ‘proof of concept’ pilot course at St Mary’s on the Identification, Support and Care of Victims, and another (funded by the Co-op and HSBC UK) to develop and conduct a ‘proof of concept’ Summer School for Survivors course at St Mary’s, with the goal of developing a model capable of replication in other similar institutions nationwide. St Mary’s is also running a donor-funded two year project with the ARISE Foundation and Women at the Well, under which a specialist Albanian-speaking research practitioner has been recruited to work with Albanian survivors.

Recent research

  • Research: Prevention. Policy and Practice
  • Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking – Long-term Support for Survivors
  • Typologies of Organised Crime: Human trafficking and modern slavery from Nigeria, Albania and Vietnam
  • Decolonising the Discourse on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery