Joint statement: ‘New Plan for Immigration’ poses risk to survivors of slavery

This statement was originally published in Business Insider

A joint statement signed by After Exploitation, Anti Slavery International, Focus on Labour Exploitation, Freedom United, Helen Bamber FoundationKalayaan, Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA), and Women for Refugee Women said:

We are deeply concerned that the Government intends to push forward with the ‘New Plan for Immigration’ next week, despite the grave danger it poses to survivors of modern slavery.

The Government has claimed that increases in trafficking referrals illustrate an ‘abuse’ of the system. On the contrary, a culture of disbelief within the current system routinely denies vulnerable people the entitlements they need to rebuild their lives after exploitation.

We are concerned that measures in the ‘New Plan for Immigration’ such as moves to create an even stricter first, Reasonable Grounds, stage in trafficking claims, are being enacted to bring down overall numbers of victims recognised by the UK State. This approach, focussing on cutting corners rather than fairness, will harm some of the most vulnerable people in society.

We are also concerned that the ‘New Plan for Immigration’ will cause even more survivors to slip through the net before their case has even been heard. Last year, 2,178 suspected victims came into contact with authorities but were not referred for helpIt is vital that authorities are given the tools to build trust with survivors, through funding for the Places of Safety scheme – first promised in 2017 – which would allow victims time to access advocacy at the point of referral. Instead, under the ‘New Plan for Immigration’, new powers will be granted to First Responders, including Immigration and Law Enforcement, to reject trafficking claims ‘outright’ even where victims would like their case to be heard.

It is vital that Government commits to identifying and protecting more survivors, not fewer, in light of well-documented Home Office failure to support exploited people.

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