politics.co.uk, August 22, 2007
John Prescott today called for a slavery memorial day to acknowledge the UK’s role in the slave trade.
The former deputy prime minister joined culture minister Margaret Hodge for the official opening of the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, as part of the celebrations for the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade.
Mr Prescott also called on ministers to ratify the European Convention on Human Trafficking, described by campaigners as the modern form of slavery.
He said: “As we look to the future and tackle modern forms of slavery wherever they exist, we also need to remember the past in a permanent way.
“That is why I advocate a national memorial day for victims of slavery, and that this should be held on a date in October, which is black history month.”
In March, the then home secretary John Reid signed the convention but it will not come into force until ten states have ratified it.
To date the convention has been ratified by Albania, Austria, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria and signed by a further 29, including the UK.
A Home Office spokeswoman said no timetable was yet in place for ratifying the convention. She told politics.co.uk the Home Office was first working with stake holders and other officials to ensure the UK could be compliant.
The convention grants victims of human trafficking a 30-day “reflection period” during which they cannot be deported and will be offered medical, psychological and legal help. It is hoped this will lead to more prosecutions for the gangs responsible for human trafficking.
Mr Prescott’s call for a national memorial day came as the US civil rights campaigner Jesse Jackson argued the UK should do more to acknowledge its role in the slave trade.
Speaking in Bristol last night, the Rev Jackson criticised Britain’s refusal to formally apologise for slavery.
He said: “It does not surprise me but it disappoints me that there has been no apology. Once we have apologised we have admitted a wrong done.”
Tony Blair rejected several calls for an apology as prime minister, choosing instead to express his “deep sorrow” over the slave trade.