Last month, our Chief Commissioner Les Allamby was invited to speak at a meeting of the Agencies Supporting Ethnic Minorities. The theme of that meeting was “Shared Space: Safe Place”, and it was held in the beautiful Braid Town Hall and Arts Centre in Ballymena. Les addressed the need to protect the rights of migrant workers, and to guarantee that Northern Ireland is a shared and safe place for all who choose to live here. He also screened a short film from our “Hidden Rights” series made last year. The film highlights the increasing prevalence of modern slavery here in Northern Ireland, and cites some harrowing statistics.
The term ‘modern slavery’ is used to describe present-day slavery, which is a huge issue across the globe - and closer to home. Examples include: being forced to work; being owned or controlled by an ‘employer’; being dehumanised; or being ‘physically constrained or having restrictions placed on freedom of movement. Just last month, research presented at the 2017 United Nations General Assembly indicated that more than 40 million people around the world were victims of modern slavery in 2016.
Modern Slavery is also a focus of the Northern Ireland Business and Human Rights Forum where members have spent a significant length of time exchanging knowledge and examples of good practice on topics such as ensuring transparency in supply chains. Forum membership includes representatives from a range of backgrounds – from the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland to the Police Service for Northern Ireland; from recruitment agencies to Freedom Acts.
One of our members is particularly well versed in combating modern slavery. Freedom Acts joined our Forum in 2016. The organisation is based in Co. Armagh and was established in 2012, with a view to raising awareness and delivering training on human trafficking. They have now engaged with over 8,000 people directly, whether in schools, workshops or presentations.
Mel Wiggins, Project Coordinator at Freedom Acts, shared the following:
“Championing human rights is at the core of our work; it is the foundation on which we build our work and our vision for the future. Our vision is for safe, inclusive communities, where people understand their rights, can exercise their personal freedom and build lives that are flourishing and free from exploitation.
“We do this by focusing our expertise and services in five key areas: Educating young people at risk of exploitation, empowering migrant workers and refugees, training professionals on signs and indicators, coordinating a network of strategic partners and developing informative and engaging resources.
“Being part of the Forum has been a great opportunity for us to connect with other agencies and people, to share best practice and to learn about emerging human rights issues that we can collectively take action on.”
To learn more about the Northern Ireland Business and Human Rights Forum, click here - or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
As well as that, you can visit the Freedom Acts website - which has a wealth of resources on modern slavery.
10 Nov 2017