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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Austria

10th January 2017 Vienna, Austria

Tackling Modern Slavery – in Vienna

A person is transported illegally away from their community to somewhere unfamiliar or foreign.  Once there, they are forced to work without any form of contract or proper remuneration.

This is modern slavery.  It is happening throughout the world, including in Europe, on a large scale.

According to the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 71% of the victims are women; 63% of the traffickers are men.

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, has long called for a crack-down on this appalling modern-day crime.  As Home Secretary, she passed the ground-breaking Modern Slavery Act in the United Kingdom.  This introduced tough new sentences and restrictions for perpetrators and increased protection for victims.

At an international level, the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime (UNTOC), which is hosted by the UNODC, has an important role to play in tackling modern slavery.

The UNTOC is designed to promote international cooperation to enable countries to work together to fight transnational organised crime.  It obliges all participating countries to update their legislation to comply with the provisions of the Convention. That includes work in two pernicious forms of international crime closely related to modern slavery: trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants.

I recently attended the 8th Conference of Parties to UNTOC as UK Head of Delegation.  In addition to the main business of the Conference, which included practical steps to combat trafficking in firearms, I also chaired a panel event.  The panel, organised with the International Association of Prosecutors, explored how to secure justice and end impunity for those guilty of people trafficking.

At the event I heard experts describe experience in Asia and the Baltic region on fighting people-trafficking – a key element of modern slavery.  It was encouraging that changes to judicial systems were making it easier to tackle the criminals.  Although much has been done in many countries including the United Kingdom, there is still a lot more to be done.  A key immediate step the international community can take is to ensure that we have the right legislation in place.  The UNODC noted in their 2016 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons that the longer a country has specific legislation in place to tackle human trafficking, the more convictions are successfully achieved.  There are still five countries with no specific legislation to counter human trafficking, and 16 with only partial legislation.

I look forward to working more with UNODC and partners in Vienna to help defeat modern slavery, not only in the UK but across Europe and the world.

1 comment on “Tackling Modern Slavery – in Vienna

  1. Great blog for everybody. Im a ecuatorian lawyer doing a master in criminal law and like to study criminology.

Comments are closed.

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.