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What’s all this got to do with Leeds?

Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking

This section contains triggers around lived experience of racism, enforced migration, trafficking, abuse and violence. When talking about contemporary issues with your class, be aware of their sensitivities and frame the information carefully. It may help to talk about discussion ground rules as a class.

By forcibly removing Kalicho, Arnaq and Nutaaq from their home, Sir Martin Frobisher was participating in what we would now understand as human trafficking.

There were probably also critics at the time, but we don’t hear their voices either. Slavery and human trafficking are not just historical acts committed by people who lived in the past, like Sir Martin Frobisher. They still happen today. People are still trafficked across, or within, countries into slavery and forced labour.

The Combating Modern Day Slavery in Leeds Strategy 2015 defines Human Trafficking as ‘the illegal movement of people, typically for the purposes of forced labour or commercial sexual exploitation'.

It can occur within a street, city/town/village, region, country or trans-nationally. Child Trafficking involves the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children with the purpose of exploiting them. Any form of trafficking children is abuse. Some people who have been trafficked may not consider themselves to have been exploited. This may be as a consequence of cultural values, work ethics and levels of remuneration within their home country.

We will never know what drove Martin’s human trafficking act. We can speculate it may have been driven by curiosity about the Inuit people, by commercial gain, to be able to showcase the wealth of the newly discovered land, or negotiate trade deals. It prefigures, but is not on the same scale as, the trafficking that would follow in the next centuries through the triangular slave trade, or on the scale of contemporary human trafficking.

The UN estimated in 2015 that Modern Slavery affects an estimated 29.8 million people around the world, and that Human Trafficking is the third most profitable crime after the drugs and arms trades. 

The contemporary statistics relating to slavery and human trafficking are shocking:

  • Almost 21 Million people worldwide are victims of forced labour.
  • In the UK in 2015, 3,266 people were identified as potential victims of traffiking, 982 of these were children. These figures were a 40% increase on the 2014 figures.
  • Figures showed that in 2015 victims of trafficking originated from 103 different countries, the top six being Albania, Vietnam, Nigeria, Romania, United Kingdom and Poland.
  • Human trafficking is a growing problem. West Yorkshire Police are clear that human trafficking is a priority, and they are addressing this with partners across the region. Last year the number of victims identified in the county nearly tripled from 42 to 122.

A key discussion point with your class will be to help them to understand that these are still issues in contemporary society, in their city and their region, and that people still suffer through slavery. The numbers above may not mean anything to younger pupils; however, there are stories and resources for explaining the concepts at Hope for Justice and Anti-Slavery.org (see Supporting Links in Resources).