– Eliminating the demand for trafficked and exploited labour is critical if efforts to end human trafficking are to be successful, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM) ahead of Anti-Slavery Day in the UK.
Launching its “Buy Responsibly” campaign in London on 18 October 2011 (http://www.buyresponsibly.org/), IOM is urging consumers in particular to play a greater role in ending human trafficking in the UK and across the world.
Encouraging the public to question “What’s Behind the Things We Buy?” the campaign, designed together with Saatchi & Saatchi in Geneva, hopes to mobilise consumer power in dramatically changing consumer habits in the UK.
“For too long the belief has been that to prevent human trafficking, we should focus on would-be migrants in their countries of origin. But in reality, these efforts have not proved very effective,” says IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. “Quite simply, human trafficking is driven by the demand for unreasonably cheap labour and goods across the world, including in the UK. We have to tackle the demand side of this crime as well.”
Estimates put the number of people in forced or bonded labour and sexual servitude in the world at 12.3 million at any given time. Although public focus has largely been on the issue of trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, greater incidences are emerging of trafficking for labour exploitation involving all ages and both sexes.
Despite best efforts by all those involved in countering human trafficking, indications are that it is at least as widespread today as it was ten years ago.
In the UK, there is a slow but growing realisation that slavery is present in the UK itself and not limited to distant shores.
“A change in mindset and practices among consumers and businesses needs to occur,” Swing adds. “Consumers in the UK who are increasingly demanding fair trade have the power to end labour exploitation by buying responsibly and getting businesses to rethink how they operate. It’s also in the interest of business to ensure that supply chains are free of trafficked or exploited labour,” says Swing.
The IOM campaign, part of a global effort to address the demand side of human trafficking for labour exploitation, has already been launched in Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.
For the UK launch on 18 October, IOM and NGOs, including the Human Trafficking Foundation, Anti-Slavery International, Barnardo’s and Stop the Traffik, will be in Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London.
A 5×4 metre upside-down giant shopping trolley imprisoning people representing trafficked migrant workers, an image of the campaign, will be on site in Trafalgar Square. The public will be encouraged to stop and ask what it can practically do to make a difference.
The Buy Responsibly launch is one of the many awareness raising events being held in London and across the UK by NGOs as part of Anti-Slavery Week.