This week, we are saddened by the Government’s response to our Anti Slavery Day joint letter, supported by more than 50+ experts by experience, academics, NGOs and law firms. The coalition of advocates called on Government to back provisions in the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, which would guarantee all human trafficking survivors a minimum of 12 months’ support and immigration leave.
The measures, now rejected by Government, would protect victims from deportation and detention during the first year of their final trafficking decision.
Currently, survivors face a ‘support lottery’, risking immigration reprisals if they report crimes against them. The Private Members Bill, tabled by Lord McColl and co-sponsored by Iain Duncan Smith MP, is backed by a coalition of non-profits think tanks and companies under the campaigning group ‘Free For Good‘.
Worryingly, Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins MP, has outlined that the Government “does not agree that victims should automatically be granted leave to remain for 12 months” and that decisions will continue to be made on a “case-by-case basis”.
We are concerned by the response to a second point in our letter, calling on Government to prevent the detention of victims in prison-like settings. Last year, our research showed that as many as 1,256 potential trafficking victims are detained annually. Atkins replied: “The Government does not have an absolute exclusion from detention for any particular group“, including victims of trafficking.
Lastly, we expressed concerns about proposals to prejudice asylum claims on the basis of a claimants’ method of entry and timing of application. Trafficking victims – who may have no choice but to claim asylum months or years after first entering the country – will be disadvantaged by the proposed reforms to penalise late claims. Atkins does not address this concern directly, but instead replies that claimants will have the opportunity to “explain their actions“. The letter does not outline any planned mechanisms to protect trafficking victims from being hit hardest by the asylum reforms announced by Secretary of State, Preti Patel, in October 2020.
Speaking in The Guardian and Independent this week, we had one message: The Government is irreperably damaging victims’ trust.
Director of After Exploitation, Maya Esslemont, said:
Director of Women For Refugee Women, Alphonsine Kabagabo, said:
UK and Europe Director of Anti Slavery International, Kate Roberts, said:
You can take action by emailing, Tweeting or Facebooking your MP as a constituent concerned about the dangers facing trafficking survivors.
We’ve uploaded a Google Doc, including draft campaigns text you can copy-paste or use as inspiration.