We must put a stop to modern slavery in Barnet and across the world
As you are reading this, over 45 million people are living in modern slavery. Human beings are being bought and sold around the world with the average price for a child being £70.
My name is Ishaan Shah, and I am a 17-year-old anti-slavery activist. I have lived in Barnet my whole life and I currently study at a school in Elstree. I first learnt that slavery still existed when I was thirteen years old. I decided to take action and founded Stolen Dreams in 2017, an organisation that engages with young people and government ministers internationally, mobilising them to take action against modern slavery.
Modern slavery is the act of forcing someone to work against their will through coercion, physical or mental threat, restraining their freedom of movement physically or psychologically. Victims are controlled, dehumanised and treated as a commodity. Slavery today involves human trafficking, forced labour, forced marriage and sex trafficking to name a few.
Modern slavery is not just an issue happening in faraway countries. Sometimes, people my age are recruited into forms of slave labour via apps like Snapchat. Today in the UK, there are an estimated 100,000 victims of exploitation, with the true figure likely to be higher due to the hidden nature of the crime. It is a practice that is deeply embedded in the socio-economic fabrics of our societies. We are encountering it every day in the clothes we wear, foods we eat, the technology we use and even on our high streets.
Between 2018 and 2019, thirteen survivors of modern slavery that were referred to local authorities were from Barnet. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing vulnerabilities and therefore, Barnet Council must take action.
Barnet Council must adopt a local modern slavery strategy, created with or by survivors, that aims to create partnerships between anti-slavery organisations, law enforcement and civil society.
To ensure that modern slavery is addressed effectively I am calling on the Council to adopt measures that will address the root causes that enable exploitation in the first place. Economic imbalances, poverty, homelessness and gender inequality are all partly to blame. This must be a strategy that provides substantial support to help survivors reintegrate back into society on their own terms, as and when they are ready to do so.
I also urge my Member of Parliament, Matthew Offord to introduce amendments that will strengthen the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to encourage the government to enforce mandatory human rights due diligence for all companies and oppose the proposed reforms to the immigration system which will invite the rates of human trafficking to increase.
Despite modern slavery being incredibly complex to end we, as global citizens, can play a part in combatting this practice.
Join me by writing to your councillors and Members of Parliament telling them to take these actions too!
To learn more about the issue and how to get involved in the anti-slavery movement, visit stolendreams.co.uk or you can find me on Instagram and Twitter @_ishaanshah!