Joint letter: Scrap Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill to protect survivors.

We write as concerned organisations, urging the Government to scrap Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill. If passed, Part 5 would have a devastating impact on survivors of modern slavery.

In its current form, survivors of modern slavery, including both British and non-UK child and adult survivors, would be denied life-saving support through a cluster of new exemptions and restrictions.

Parliamentarians have a small window of opportunity to oppose these plans. We hope that MPs will raise the concerns of survivors and NGOs with colleagues in the Lords due to debate Part 5 of the Bill, which would:

o     Create a harsher system for survivors with higher thresholds and therefore greater risk of support being rejected 

o    Introduce cruel ‘trauma deadlines’ by putting a time limit on when survivors must disclose their experiences, after which they are assumed to be lying

o     Block access to support for survivors with criminal records, despite 49% of potential trafficking victims last year having been forced to commit crimes during their exploitation.

More than 100 non-profit NGOs have highlighted the seismic impact of Part 5 on survivors of modern slavery. A number have compiled a joint briefing, and we urge MPs to share its recommendations with colleagues in the Lords who are minded to pursue the complete removal of Part 5 from the Bill.

LOTTERY OF SUPPORT:
THE CURRENT SYSTEM

Currently, survivors of slavery in the UK face a ‘lottery’ of support, often struggling to access safe housing, counselling or even basic financial subsistence consistently, despite having a legal right to access such help.[1][2] In 79% of cases, people with ‘reasonable grounds’ in a trafficking case are partially or completely denied the support they request.[3]

The increased risk among survivors of slavery of suicide attempts, depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),[4] health complications,[5] and withdrawal where traffickers use alcohol and drugs as tools of coercion[6] makes delays in accessing support incredibly damaging. Measures that restrict and limit support further, which will be a consequence of this Bill, will put lives at higher risk. The measures would also create a fertile environment for criminal networks who exploit and harm individuals.

Below, I go into more detail on why I am so concerned that support will be even harder for survivors to access under Part 5.

LILY’S STORY – “I WOULD HAVE MISSED OUT ON SUPPORT”

Lily, currently a student, is a survivor of sexual exploitation. Had Lily come forward for support with Part 5 of the Bill in place, she could have been penalised under two Clauses in the Bill: the ‘trauma deadline’ (Clauses 57-58) and ‘public order’ exemption (Clause 62).

She says that the system is “hard to navigate” and “not always explained properly to you. I’ve had to do my own reading into the process, as it has never been explained to me.

“We have to fight to be safe and to receive the correct support to help our recovery… but it is exhausting and re-traumatising.”

“In relation to the trauma deadline… I would have missed out on support [under Part 5]. It wasn’t until professionals started working with me and I built up a rapport with them that I could fully disclose what was going on and that took months.

“I did not recognise myself as a victim of slavery because I’d been brainwashed for a decade. It sounds weird, but being sexually and criminally exploited was my normal and it felt safe to me. When it’s been your life for so long… you just accept it.”

 ‘HARSHER SYSTEM’ FOR SURVIVORS

Clause 59: Greater risk of rejection

The Bill includes clauses which would see survivors subjected to greater risk of rejection earlier in their recovery journey, such as Clause 59. 

Referral into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK’s gateway to support for people who have experienced trafficking or slavery. However, there are significant shortcomings in the referral process.

Many survivors are suspicious of authorities due to a fear of deportation, past experiences where an authority has failed them, or fear of retaliation against them or their loved ones from organised criminal networks. 

This widespread mistrust of the system of survivors could be worsened under Part 5 of the Bill. Last year, in 2,178 trafficking cases, authorities identified suspected victims but did not refer them to official channels of support.[8]

Now, under Clause 59, the first decision-making stage, the ‘Reasonable Grounds’ in the NRM, will be made even tougher earlier in the process. This first stage is where urgent help is allocated, such as safe housing. Changes to restrict the number of survivors who can access this first-stage support will put many at even greater risk of deportation, destitution, or even re-trafficking.

TRAUMA DEADLINES

Clauses 57-58: Cruel ‘trauma deadlines’

Under Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, many survivors will see their support cut due to the creation of ‘trauma deadlines’, which will remove support for survivors who do not share details of their abuse ‘quickly enough’ (Clauses 57 and 58). 

Survivors are frequently psychologically, physically or sexually abused by traffickers as a means of maintaining control.[9] For this reason, the traumatic nature of both exploitation and ill-treatment at the hands of exploiters can result in severely delayed disclosure by victims. 

Now, under so-called Trafficking Information Notices, even survivors recognised as potentially ’genuine’ by the Home Office will see basic support provisions revoked if they do not disclose details of their abuse ‘quickly enough’.

BANS ON SUPPORT

Clause 62: Blocks to support access

Under Clause 62, a new ‘public order’ exemption will ban survivors from support if they have a conviction of 12 months or more. Many non-violent crimes carry 12-month convictions, including activity routinely enforced by traffickers (such as marijuana cultivation or petty theft).

This move has been tabled despite the Home Office’s own data showing that a majority of reported survivors (49%) have been forced to commit criminal activity as a result of their exploitation[7]

I am concerned that Clause 62 will create a two-tier system of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ survivors, potentially classing thousands out of support.

Clauses 60-61: No ‘second chance’

Survivors who are exploited more than once, and have been wrongly denied support as part of a recovery and reflection period previously, would miss out on further assistance under moves to prevent survivors from a second chance at such support through Clauses 60 and 61.

Clauses 63 and 67: ‘Case-by-case’ support

We already know that the ‘case-by-case’ approach doesn’t protect survivors of modern slavery, as 79% of support requests raised are currently completely or partially rejected by the Home Office.[8]

I join NGOs in raising concerns around changes made in Clause 63, to only provide support to survivors where ‘necessary’. While enshrining support for survivors should be a positive step, this wording lowers the standard of care that survivors can expect in the UK. 

Withdrawal from the EU Trafficking Directive in Clause 67 would also allow the Government to avoid existing levels of accountability, under international law, should it wish to further roll back survivor entitlements.

WIDER CHANGES IN THE BILL

The spirit with which the Bill has been introduced is also counter to the Government’s stated aim of identifying trafficking. Moves to allow for offshore and ‘out-of-town’ processing of asylum claims, the criminalisation of people fleeing danger, and the creation of a two-tier asylum process will make it even harder for practitioners to win the trust of survivors whose cases may first come to light within the immigration system.

We are worried that a significant portion of the Nationality and Borders Bill, intending to punish people with insecure immigration status, will have a significant impact on survivors of modern slavery, and my concerns are shared by the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton:

“I am concerned that these changes would make the identification of victims of modern slavery harder. I support the Government’s focus on disrupting criminal networks, but measures taken should not increase the vulnerability of those already in precarious situations.”

“Differential treatment of refugees based on the nature of their arrival may only serve to exacerbate vulnerability.” [10]

As concerned organisations and individuals, we urge MPs to act against the repeal of hard-won rights under the Modern Slavery Act, and to use whichever platforms are at their disposal to raise these concerns with Government, urgently.

Signed:

Adavu Project
African Rainbow Family
After Exploitation
Anti Slavery International
Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU)
Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG)
Artists’ Union England
AVID Detention
Baca Charity
Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID)
Black Activists Rising
Against Cuts (BARAC)
Citizens of the World Refugee Choir
City of Sanctuary
Detention Action
Doughty Street Chambers, Anti-Trafficking Team
Duncan Lewis
Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT)
English Collective of Prostitutes
Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX)
Freedom United
Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group (GDWG)
Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit (GMIAU)
Helen Bamber Foundation
Hestia
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI)
Jesuit Refugee Service
JustRight Scotland
Kalayaan 
Latin American Women’s Rights Service (LAWRS),
Medact,
Migrants at Work
Migrants’ Rights Network
Oxford Against Immigration Detention
Rainbow Migration
Refugee Support Devon
Right to Remain
Street Talk
The Voice of Domestic Workers
Thread Ahead
Unseen
Waging Peace
Women for Refugee Women
Women’s Institute


References

[1] Hibiscus (2020). Closed Doors: Inequalities and injustices in appropriate and secure housing provision for female victims of trafficking who are seeking asylum. Accessible: https://hibiscusinitiatives.org.uk/closed-doors-a-new-report-by-hibiscus/  

[2] Murphy, C.  (2018). A Game of Chance? Long-term Support for Survivors of Modern Slavery. Centre for the Study of Modern Slavery, London. Accessible: https://research.stmarys.ac.uk/id/eprint/3883/

[3] Home Office (2021). UK Annual Report on Modern Slavery, 2020. Accessible: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1033986/2021_UK_Annual_Report_on_Modern_Slavery.pdf

[4] Iglesias-Rios, L., Harlow, S.D., Burgard, S.A. et al. (2018). Mental health, violence and psychological coercion among female and male trafficking survivors in the greater Mekong sub-region: a cross-sectional study. BMC Psychol, 6 (56). Accessible: https://bmcpsychology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40359-018-0269-5

[5] Oram, S., Abas, M., Bick, D., Boyle, A., French, R., Jakobowitz, S., Khondoker, M., Stanley, N., Trevillion, K., Howard, L., & Zimmerman, C. (2016). Human trafficking and health: A survey of male and female survivors in England. American Journal of Public Health, 106 (6). Accessible: https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303095

[6] Salvation Army, Black Country Women’s Aid, Bright Day Consulting (2018). A Few Doors Down: The Links between Substance Abuse and Modern Slavery. Accessible: https://issuu.com/salvationarmyuk/docs/a_few_doors_down_- _the_links_betwee?e=5764755/63417485 

[7] Home Office (2021). Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify Statistics. Accessible: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/970995/modern-slavery-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-end-year-summary-2020-hosb0821.pdf pg. 11

 [8] Home Office (2021). Modern Slavery: National Referral Mechanism and Duty to Notify Statistics. Accessible: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/970995/modern-slavery-national-referral-mechanism-statistics-end-year-summary-2020-hosb0821.pdf pg. 11

[9] Hemmings, S., Jakobowitz, S., Abas, M. et al. Responding to the health needs of survivors of human trafficking: a systematic review. BMC Health Serv Res. Accessible: https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12913-016-1538-8

[10] Thornton, S., (2021). Correspondence to Home Secretary by Independent Anti Slavery Commissioner. Accessible: https://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/media/1668/iasc-letter-to-the-rt-hon-priti-patel-mp-home-secretary-march-2021.pdf


One response to “Joint letter: Scrap Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill to protect survivors.”

  1. […] is joining forces with more than 40 leading modern slavery charities and law firms from today, calling on Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill to be scrapped. An eye-catching […]

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