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East Anglia modern slavery initiative takes off

The new initiative to tackle Modern Slavery in East Anglia has taken off since its launch in February with volunteers now numbering around 30, reports Simon John.

The new group have met twice virtually since the launch on February 8, the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, regarded as the patron saint of Modern Slavery. Its principal aim is simply to learn the signs of Modern Slavery and safely report them on the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.

At their most recent meeting in April, members heard from John French the Suffolk Police Modern Slavery advisor. He made brief reference to two recent cases involving arrests in Bury St Edmunds in the middle of the Diocese, involving a car wash and a brothel ‑ two common settings for exploitation.

John emphasised the extent to which the police rely on the public to be their eyes and ears because for many reasons people trapped in Modern Slavery cannot self-report. In one of the above settings of exploitation, all of the information leading to recent arrests has come from members of the public.

Recent Home Office statistics show the numbers of people found enslaved have increased in the first quarter of 2024 to 4,524, a 9% increase from the previous quarter.

There were 2,148 souls actually found in Modern Slavery in the same period in 2019, so in five years we have seen the numbers found more than double.

Of course, most people in Modern Slavery aren’t found. In 2018, the estimate by the United Nations of the total number of people in Modern Slavery in the UK was around 136,000.

At that rate there will be more than 1 million enslaved people in the UK by 2040.

Pope Francis says he wants us to do something about it. Modern Slavery is amenable to reduction. The new group is looking for more volunteers. It follows that the more people who are on the lookout, then the more people will be found and the problem as a whole will gradually reduce: meanwhile every rescue is a soul freed from torment.

The group is still looking for new volunteers. No particular skill or experience is necessary – only a desire to reduce slavery in our Diocese. Contact Simon John on

Read more of this initiative here.