LONDON, Dec 1 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hundreds of thousands of people who have survived modern slavery or risk becoming enslaved in nations including Bangladesh, Nepal and Nigeria will receive support through a 40 million pound ($54 million) aid package, the British government said on Friday.
Half of the money will be split between tackling forced labour among women migrant workers from South Asia and cracking down on human trafficking from Nigeria, often of women and girls into sex slavery, said Britain's foreign aid department (DFID).
The rest will go to the U.S.-based Global Fund to End Modern Slavery, a public-private partnership seeking $1.5 billion to combat the crime globally by targeting problem sectors from the garment industry to fisheries and construction.
By working with law enforcement, civil society and businesses, as well as providing information, skills and job opportunities to vulnerable people - mostly women - DFID said the money would help save more than 500,000 people from slavery.
"In the world we live in, it is as easy to traffic people as drugs or guns - and not enough is being done to tackle it," said Penny Mordaunt, Britain's international development minister.
Britain is considered a leader in global efforts to combat slavery, and passed the Modern Slavery Act in 2015 to crack down on traffickers, force businesses to check their supply chains for forced labour, and protect people at risk of being enslaved.
At least 13,000 people in Britain are estimated by the government to be victims of modern slavery - but police say that the true figure is likely to be in the tens of thousands.
DFID said the funding was part of a drive to ramp up efforts to tackle slavery at home and abroad, both in regions where the crime is rampant, such as South Asia, and source countries for human trafficking into Britain, including Nigeria and Vietnam.
The latest funding is part of a pledge in September by Britain to double its spending on global projects tackling slavery and trafficking to 150 million pounds ($203 million).
About 40 million people worldwide were trapped as slaves last year - mostly women and girls - in forced labour and forced marriages, according to the United Nations' International Labour Organization and human rights group Walk Free Foundation.
"This is a global disgrace - it is time to eradicate this shameful practice," Mordaunt added in a statement.
($1 = 0.7403 pounds)
(Writing By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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