Britain’s greatest ever distance runner, and campaigner against modern slavery and human trafficking, Sir Mo Farah has become a Patron of the Bakhita Centre for Research on Slavery, Exploitation and Abuse at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.
Sir Mo has a long relationship with St Mary’s and trained, studied, and lived at the University from 2001-2011. He began campaigning against human trafficking and modern slavery following his decision in 2022 to reveal he himself was a victim of these crimes. Sir Mo was trafficked to the UK from Djibouti at the age of eight and forced to work in domestic servitude until he was ultimately able to escape when he confided in his teacher.
The announcement comes on the feast day of St Josephine Bakhita, patron saint of victims of human trafficking. The Centre is named in honour of St Josephine, who herself was a victim of human trafficking in Sudan and Italy, becoming the first black female saint in 1992.
Speaking of his appointment as Patron, Sir Mo Farah said, “I am honoured to have the opportunity to support the work of the Bakhita Centre as its first Patron. Fighting the crimes of human exploitation is a cause close to my heart and I hope I can support the Centre in their work.”
The Bakhita Centre was founded in 2015 to conduct research on modern slavery and human trafficking, to influence practice and policy, and to raise awareness across the university, in local communities and further afield. The Centre aims to broaden the University’s research on global issues that intersect with modern slavery, including gender-based violence, sexual and other forms of exploitation, abuse and discrimination based on structural inequalities, race, ethnicity, asylum seeking/refugee and migrant status.
St Mary’s Vice-Chancellor Anthony McClaran said, “We are delighted Sir Mo has agreed to become a Patron of the Bakhita Centre. On the athletics track, he is our most famous and successful alumnus, and it is a great honour that he will continue his relationship with the University on this topic that is both close to Sir Mo’s personal experience, and our mission as a University.”
Director of the Bakhita Centre Dr Carole Murphy added, “Sir Mo’s presence as our patron will help us raise the profile of the work of the Centre and our commitment to expose the structural factors that underpin the crimes of human exploitation and in turn provide more support to more survivors and anti-exploitation practitioners.”
The Bakhita Centre is highly active in the public square, producing regular reports and hosting conferences to share best practise with practitioners, legislators, and journalists to support victims and help agencies identify victims of human exploitation.
About Bakhita Centre
Since its establishment in 2015, the Bakhita Centre has built up a strong network of partners in civil society, law enforcement, other universities, and government, and draws on the expertise of internal and external partners. Honorary Research Fellows active in the Centre have expertise in social work, policing, business, tackling organised crime, and survivor support. Internal partners at St Mary’s include academic experts in Criminology, Law, Media, Business and Education. These partnerships enable the Centre to approach the multifaceted issue of modern slavery and human trafficking from a wide-ranging perspective.
The Centre also works closely with NGOs to identify gaps in service provision for survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking and to recommend changes to policy and practice. Over the years, it has also worked with government departments to identify gaps in knowledge, generating empirical evidence to make the response more targeted, and generate better results for those subject to slavery and trafficking. The Centre’s work will continue to impact on policy, practice and prevention through applied research, education, training, and awareness raising.
The Centre supports Cardinal Vincent Nichols’ initiative to combat slavery and trafficking, along with Bakhita House (a London-based safe-house for trafficked women) and the Santa Marta group which seeks to co-ordinate the efforts of law enforcement authorities, NGOs, and governments worldwide.