“TO ALL FREE MEN OF OUR KINGDOM we have also granted, for us and our heirs for ever, all the liberties written out below, to have and to keep for them and their heirs, of us and our heirs”.
The above is an extract from Magna Carta
, the famous document first signed at Runnymede in 1215. Although slavery had been abolished in England prior to this, it would return with a vengeance, but rather than people selling themselves into bondage as they had before the invasion of William the Conqueror, a trade grew up transporting Africans, a trade that was not finally abolished for another six hundred years, and even after that there was still the little matter of indentured servants, and the horrible case of the “climbing boys”, the latter of which went on well into the 19th Century, and of which Thomas Clark “master-sweep of Nottingham” told the 1863 Children’s Employment Commission “It [apprenticeship] is as bad as the Negro slavery, only it is not so known”.
More fittingly, Arthur Moro, a Jewish campaigner against the white slave traffic in the late 19th/early 20th Centuries wrote in a report of 31 October 1903: “We fear unfortunately this horrible blot on the reputation of our race, exists in most places of the world where there is the chance of these unscrupulous men and women making money by the sacrifice of young Jewish girls.”
Thanks to men like Moro and those before him, including of course William Wilberforce, this horrible blot on the reputation of our race has been banished forever from England, Europe, and North America. Or so we thought.
Yet today, a woman appeared in court at Luton on a charge of holding people as slaves at Leighton Buzzard; she was granted bail
, probably only because she is heavily pregnant. This is actually part of an ongoing investigation
which earlier this month saw a so-called travellers’ site being raided by police, a number of arrests, and 24 men being freed from enforced labour. The story is all the more repugnant in that these men were vulnerable, they had been picked up off the street, promised paid work, and then enslaved, brutalised and virtually starved while set to work laying roads and such. Some of the 24 wretched souls rescued by police last week had been held for up to 15 years in truly horrendous conditions by their masters.
These so-called travellers – who appear to be more static than travelling – are also known as gypsies. At this moment, Basildon Council is trying to evict a large group of so-called travellers who have been encamped on farm land illegally for years. After a prolonged legal struggle, the council has won the right to expel them, and of course all the bleeding heart liberals and leftists have come out to campaign on their behalf, including actively resisting, but local people who have had to put up with them and all the problems they cause are unimpressed. The truth is that no one wants these people in their own back yards – NIMBY as the saying goes.
After her conviction last month, a man who claims to be the brother of Dr Rebecca Balira
protested her innocence; she does not though appear to have appealed, so the facts speak for themselves. Dr Balira is from Africa; one would have imagined that as an African and a woman she would have known better. We can take some crumb of comfort from the fact that like Dr Balira, those responsible for the Leighton Buzzard incident are not British.
Though slavery and enforced labour is still reported from other parts of the globe such as China, we must not allow this abomination to rear its head in Britain ever again, and wherever it is found, it must be stamped out.
There is a surprising number of organisations working to that effect, which is truly a shame, because in the second decade of the 21st Century, there should be no need for them to exist. Anti-Slavery International is organising a campaign for a slavery free London in the run up to the 2012 Olympic Games, which will be held here. Information about the campaign can be found here