“This is a significant and welcome development in the fight against forced labour,” said Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, (ILO). “The United Kingdom’s ratification is a clear sign that global momentum is building in the fight against these abhorrent practices that demean and enslave millions around the world.”

The United Kingdom has a strong record in combatting forced labour.  It was among the first countries to ratify the 1930 Forced Labour Convention and last year passed the “UK Modern Slavery Act”, which strengthens the legal framework for combatting all forms of forced labour.

In a statement issued by the UK’s Home Office, UK Minister for Preventing Abuse and Exploitation Karen Bradley said: “Sadly, forced labour can take place in any industry, but the UK Government will not stand by while criminals profit from this trade in human misery.”

“That’s why we have committed to working with the International Labour Organization and other countries to make sure we are providing the strongest possible protection for victims and bringing perpetrators to justice.”

“Through our landmark Modern Slavery Act we are already ensuring that those who are guilty of forced labour offences can face life behind bars, and our Immigration Bill, will ensure that the Gangmasters Licensing Authority has new powers to investigate those workers being exploited.”

According to ILO research, forced labour generates around US$150 billion a year in illicit profits – most of it in developed economies and the European Union.  It affects domestic workers and many people in agriculture, fishing and construction. Women and girls, in particular, are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation.

The Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA), the public body set up by the UK Government to fight forced labour, is a partner of the 50 for Freedom campaign against modern slavery, along with other UK partners – the Ethical Trading Initiative and the Institute for Human Rights and Business.