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Review on the business response to Operation Fort

18/06/2020

Responding to the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton’s, review investigating the business response to Operation Fort, Mark Burns-Williamson, APCC Lead on Modern Slavery and West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner said:

“I welcome this report which focusses on the role of businesses to help tackle modern slavery and exploitation, following the UK’s largest modern slavery investigation and prosecution.

“Operation Fort, had an estimated 400 victims who had been exploited in the most despicable and horrific way, and resulted in eight members of a criminal gang being convicted of slavery, trafficking and money laundering offences. It also highlighted the significant impact modern slavery has on our everyday lives and our choices as consumers, as products resulting from the victims’ work entered the supply chains of some of the UK’s largest retailers.

“Businesses have a vital role to play to ensure that slavery and exploitation do not exist in their supply chains and they must realise that no supply chain is potentially exempt from scrutiny and the possibility that labour exploitation is taking place within them.

“Businesses should use this report as a wakeup call in moving towards a post Brexit and Covid19 environment, take positive steps, and consider the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s Maturity Framework as a means to develop their response.

“The Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires businesses with an annual turnover of over £36 million or more to publish a statement and detail what it is doing to examine its business and supply chains for modern slavery. However, in my view the legislation now needs to be revisited and more robust to capture those businesses that fall outside of this statutory remit as the majority of businesses are small to medium enterprises below that threshold.

“Particularly now, during the Covid-19 outbreak, workers are being displaced across workforces in many sectors, exposing them to an increased risk of labour and other exploitation.

“We all have a responsibility to better understand and take action as consumers of goods and services, and as members of our communities. We need to raise awareness of how to spot the signs of slavery and exploitation, especially at the earliest opportunity to help identify and safeguard vulnerable people being exploited in this way.”

“To find out more about modern slavery or to report any suspicions visit the Modern Slavery Helpline’s website https://www.modernslaveryhelpline.org or call 08000 121 700. In an emergency always call 999.”

More information on the signs of Modern Slavery can also be found here https://www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/about/spot-the-signs

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