It has been over two centuries since slavery was outlawed in Britain. The fight led by people such as Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce has become the stuff of legend, with books, documentaries and even Hollywood movies being produced.
For many the issue of slavery is associated with this era. However, the United Nations estimates that at least 12 million people around the world remain enslaved today – including thousands in Britain. Far from being resigned to the history books, slavery is very much a 21st century issue.
Contemporary slavery has evolved with the world around it. The image of Africans being kidnapped, transported on slave ships and being sold to work on plantations in the Deep South of America is long gone. Now people are more likely to walk into slavery.
Extreme poverty means people are looking for whatever chances they can to earn money for their families. When someone comes to their village offering work overseas for a decent wage, they believe the lies. Once they arrive, their travel documents are taken away and they are put to work. They are unable to ask for help as they often do not speak the local language.
Violence, or the threat of violence to themselves and their families back home, ensures their silence.
Slavery is not confined to the developing world. The United Nations estimates that at least 600,000 men, women and children are trafficked across international borders every year. In Britain, a large number of those that are enslaved find themselves forced into the sex industry. Girls are raped up to 10 or 15 times a day and often force-fed drugs in order to break their spirit.
Domestic servitude is also becoming increasingly prevalent. Government plans to axe the Overseas Domestic Workers visa will further limit the protection offered to domestic migrant workers.
Britain has a long history of leadership when it comes to these issues. However, the Conservative-led government are not doing enough to tackle slavery and human trafficking.
Funding is being cut, the Gangmasters Licensing Authority is facing closure and an EU directive that strengthens our ability to prosecute slave traders was held up by over nine months in order to appease eurosceptic Tory backbenchers.
The Slave Trade Act 1807 recognised that the trade in human beings was both unnatural and an affront to the civilised world. It is staggering that in 21st century millions of people remain enslaved.
It is paramount that the government adopts a more pro-active stance in tackling slavery and human trafficking.
Only through sustained and coordinated action can we ensure that the dream of the likes of Clarkson and Wilberforce is finally met.
Mark Hendrick is the Labour & Co-operative MP for Preston