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Thursday, 23 August 2012

Slavery RemembranceDay

A special mention today for Slavery Remembrance Day.

23rd August is designated by UNESCO as the day we remember the victims of the slave trade which was officially outlawed in the UK in 1807. This is being commemorated in Liverpool by a visit from Martin Luther King III who is the son of the great Civil rights Campaigner assassinated in 1968.

The City of Liverpool was one of the biggest players in this terrible trade. At its height the City was dealing with up to 75% of all slave ships passing from Africa to the Americas. It is a dark part of our history which we would rather forget but which should make us all the more determined that any form of slavery should be wiped out for good.

Nobody knows the exact figures but they are numbered in millions. For example about 74,000 a year were transported between 1776 and 1800 which totals about 1.85m. Much of the wealth and fame of my home city was built on the suffering of slaves.

Although this is now consigned to history, slavery has not disappeared. In fact the numbers are higher than ever. The form of slavery is different. Many are forced to work to pay debts and are paid at such a low level that the debts are never paid leading to a life of servitude. There are countless stories of young women trafficked into the sex trade against their will or following false promises of employment.

Some of the worst offenders are familiar. Chocolate production is known to be one industry in which children are forced to work. It is likely that most of the chocolate we enjoy has seen forced labour at some point down the line –

Whatever you call it – slavery, forced labour, people trafficking – it has been and remains one of the great injustices of the world. Anybody who works is entitled to a living wage and tolerable working conditions.

So for this day there is no legal rant! Let us remember those who are still victims, let us educate ourselves and do all we can to eliminate it once and for all.

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