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William Hague slapped down over slavery gaff

by Lester Holloway
25/1/2005

PRESENT-DAY slavery is far worse than the trans-Atlantic slave trade, according to former Tory leader William Hague.

William Hague
William Hague explores Notting Hill carnival with wife Ffion

Anti-slavery activists welcomed the fact that he was drawing attention to a major issue affecting millions of people today.

But reparations campaigners said Hague risked diverting attention away from the horrors of past slavery and its legacy.

Speaking on BBC radio 4's Today programme, Hague said: “The distressing truth is that there appear to be more slaves in the world today than there were transported across the Atlantic in the entire period of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.”

downplay

Women were being pressed into prostitution and criminal gangs were trafficking thousands of people every year. Hague spoke out about modern-day slavery at a lecture for the Centre for Social Justice on Monday.

Your Shout!

What do you make of William Hague's comments?

But reparations campaigner Esther Stanford, of the Black United Front, said: “To try and infer that there is more slavery today is to run away from the British government's responsibilities.

“To attempt to downplay historical slavery is diabolical. Anyone who downplays the horrors of the holocaust is accused of being a holocaust-denier. Why is it right to downplay the African holocaust?”

bondage

She added: “Historical and contemporary slavery are connected. The slavery of the past keeps people in bondage today. Anyone who misses that link is not living in the real world.

Esther Stanford
Esther Stanford: past and present slavery is connected

“The reason why people end up selling each other and their own bodies is largely because of economic slavery. That is not to justify it, but simply to understand what makes them so desperate.”

Beth Herzfield, of Anti-Slavery International, didn't believe Hague was downplaying historical slavery, and said the lasting legacy of the trans-Atlantic trade must not be forgotten.

However she welcomed the fact that Hague was drawing attention to the problems of modern-day slavery. She said: “There is no question that there are millions of people in slavery today throughout the world.

illegal

“I don't think he's trying to downplay historical slavery. Slavery whereever it occurs is illegal, but it still happens. We need governments to take action to stop in happening. We are working to encourage domestic legislation and to ensure it's implemented.”

William Hague
William Hague samples the delights of coconut milk

There are no precise figures for the number of current-day slaves, but the International Labor Organisation estimate there are 8.4 million child slaves.

A local survey in the central African state of Niger found at least 43,000, and the are recorded cases of 14,000 abductions in the Sudan.

The US government calculate around 600,000 people are trafficked each year, and other figures point to ten million domestic servants, many of whom live in slave-like conditions.

Hague urged the government to use their presidencies of the European Union and G8 this year to push the international community into more action to combat this problem.

GB


http://www.antislavery.org/breakingthesilence/

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