Modern slavery (Part 5) in the Lords: Some victories

Some defeats on the Nationality and Borders Bill, but more work to do

Part 5: “The Government refuses to listen”

Last night, Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill (measures relating to modern slavery) were discussed at Report Stage in the House of Lords. Each speaker condemned Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill in strong terms, and many questioned what evidence could justify these extreme restrictions on support for survivors of slavery.

Lord Coaker challenged the Government’s claim that the system for recognising and supporting trafficked people – called the National Referral Mechanism – was ‘open to abuse’. Whilst the Government claimed a 20% rise in referrals was a ‘cause for concern’ Coaker explained it should be seen as “a sign of success. We’re actually uncovering more examples [of slavery]”. He continued: “It [Government] fails to recognise the fear and intimidation that even survivors … found by the State, feel. In the same figures…the process by which adults don’t consent to referral has gone up by 47%. That is the figure the Government should be worried about.”

Lord Alton also challenged Government claims that the system was open to abuse:

“89% of Reasonable Grounds [first-stage trafficking decisions] and 94% of Conclusive Grounds [final-stage trafficking decisions] are positive. So why does the Government feel the need to change the system? Concerns around people abusing the system are completely unfounded.”

Whilst Part 5 as a whole was not put on the chopping block, Baroness Butler-Sloss condemned the set of measures in their entirety.

“Why not listen to the whole modern slavery sector opposed to the whole of Part 5? Including the Salvation Army, the Independent Anti Slavery Commissioner, the United Nations, and perhaps most interestingly Caroline Houghey QC who has been advising the government for years. The Government refuses to listen to a sector which really knows what it’s talking about.”

Voting outcomes: Best interests of the child, support minimums, scrapped ‘trauma deadline’, and limits on support bans

The Government faced defeat on all four votes related to Part 5 in the Lords last night. You can read the amendments here.

  • Trauma deadline
    The decision to remove Clause 58, in which survivors of slavery are expected to adhere to a ‘trauma deadline’ or risk missing out on support, was supported by 213 and opposed by 142 peers.

    This action by the Lords is welcome, and we hope the Government will take heed of the chambers comments.

    If enacted, Clause 58 would essentially punish survivors for not adhering to a ‘trauma deadline’ set by the Secretary of State. Under Trafficking Information Notices, survivors would be forced to provide all details in a case or else see their ‘credibility damaged’ when applying for protection. Survivors should not be put on trial for the time it takes them to share details of often horrific abuse – it is vital that decisions on who has been trafficked are made on the basis of fact, not the ‘conduct’ of victims
  • Watering down of support bans for survivors, based on offending history
    This clause would replace Clause 62, in which decision makers have to take survivors’ offending history into consideration when deciding if they have been trafficked or not. This amendment was supported by 210 and opposed by 128 peers.

    The new clause would still allow for support restrictions where “necessary and proportionate to the threat posed” but would require an “assessment” of the facts of a case and only apply in “exceptional circumstances”. Whilst this is an improvement on Clause 62, this still falls short of the work that policymakers must undertake to ensure that survivors are not put on trial for their conduct when coming forward for help
  • Minimum 12 months’ support for confirmed victims
    Amendment 70 puts support for survivors on a statutory footing (meaning that certain entitlements are available to survivors as a guarantee) once they have been confirmed as victims by the UK state. The amendment was support by 207 and opposed by 123 peers.

    These protections include access to safe housing, counselling, financial subsistence, and immigration leave. Whilst this move is welcome, we are concerned that such support is only open to those confirmed as trafficking victims, after going through the length determination process. The most urgently-needed forms of support, currently available when decision makers believe it is ‘reasonable’ to believe someone has been trafficked, will – under the rest of Part 5 -no longer be able to access support until decision makers decide there are ‘conclusive grounds’ to believe they are a victim. Whilst it is welcome to see support minimums introduced, it is vital that final-stage support compliments rather than replaces the urgent support that survivors needed before final decisions in a case are made.
  • Best interests of the child
    Under this amendment, in child trafficking cases, “the best interests of the child must be a primary consideration”. The move would also protect child trafficking victims from the trauma deadline, support ban on the basis of past offending, and the ‘stricter’ decision making process. 194 peers supported and 128 opposed the measure.

Some victories, but more work to be done

Whilst there are victories to be celebrated, there are still many causes for concern in the Nationality and Borders Bill as it stands. Most notably, moves to raise the threshold that modern slavery survivors must meet, in order to secure the most urgent forms of support, pose a grave threat to victims. In practice, this means that survivors will have ‘more to prove’ earlier in their support journey, at a point in time when they have no formal access to the caseworkers, counsellors, or materials needs. This will greatly disadvantage survivors, who already have to defy huge odds in order to be recognised by the UK State as having been trafficked. Whilst some of the damaging parts of the Bill have been watered down, it’s vital that MPs work to scrap Part 5 in its entirety.

On Monday, the Bill returns to the Commons: Tell your MP to #ScrapPart5 for survivors of slavery.

Our statement on year-end modern slavery statistics (2021) – 03/03/2022

[A shortened version of this statement appears in the Independent, and elsewhere – 03/03/2022]

Whilst the Home Office claims use of the human trafficking determination process is sky rocketing, today’s data paints a very different story.

Published on 03/03/2022, the Home Office’s year-end modern slavery statistics state clearly that there has been a “20% rise” in the number of trafficking cases referred for support in 2021 (12,727) compared to 2020 (10,601).

This National Referral Mechanism data – outlining a rise in identification – has been used by Government to justify cuts and limits to support for survivors under Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making it’s way through the Lords.

However, it is vital to recognise that – nestled at the very bottom of the Home Office’s press release – the number of people identified as potential victims but never passed on for formal support has increased by 46% from 2020 (2,175) to 2021 (3,190). Under duty to notify statistics, we can see instances in which suspected victims are identified by first responders – such as the police or border control – and do not consent for further engagement (often putting them at risk of re-trafficking, and taking away their chance to access safe housing, caseworkers, or support linked to their exploitation).

The rise in suspected victims not asking for support is more than double the rise in those being referred. This sadly shows that the ‘tough on claimants’ rhetoric – peddled by Government – is starting to have real-world consequences. People identified as eligible to be considered for trafficking support are now even less willing to engage with the authorities than they were two years ago.

We urge the Government to take action to remedy this worrying trend, in which survivors are so close yet so far from securing the support they need to escape harm.

If you have been affected by what you have read, please write to your MP asking for Government to Scrap Part 5, which would heighten the evidence threshold upon referral and disqualify victims for their criminal history or delays in sharing abuse: www.tinyurl.com/scrappart5

Scrap Part 5: Lush shop front take-over for survivors of modern day slavery

Lush is supporting After Exploitation, who are calling on Boris to scrap cuts to modern slavery support under Nationality and Borders Bill

IMAGES: Shop-front mock up of campaign materials

MP ACTION: Link to the #ScrapPart5 MP action

JOINT LETTER: 40+ NGOs and law firms call on Prime Minister
Boris Johnson to stop cuts to modern slavery support


Lush 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 display will be on offer across Lush’s UK shop fronts between 28th February and 6th March, as the shop boosts the ‘Scrap Part 5’ MP action with a shop-front takeover from non-profit After Exploitation.

Under Part 5, due to be debated in the House of Lords this week, survivors of modern slavery would no longer be guaranteed a right to support (such as safe housing, counselling, or financial subsistence). Meanwhile Part 5 would also see certain ‘types’ of victims, such as those with a criminal conviction or barriers to sharing abuse ‘quickly enough’, subject to new bans from support.

Each of Lush’s 101 store fronts across the UK will carry the slogan: “Don’t let the Government rip up support for modern slavery survivors”, alongside a QR code and URL, so that customers can quickly and easily take part in the Scrap Part 5 action. The landing page allows members of the public to email their MP a list of concerns about Part 5 with just the click of a button. The action takes 1 minute to complete.

The action, led by non-profit After Exploitation and supported by charities such as Women’s Institute and Women for Refugee Women, is hoped to embolden peers in the House of Lords to push back against the damaging changes at Report Stage. Conservative, cross-bench, Lib Dem and Labour peers have universally condemned the measures as ‘regrettable’ at Committee Stage.

After Exploitation x Lush

Maya Esslemont, Director of After Exploitation said:

“With these controversial modern slavery changes due to be debated by the Lords any day this week, Lush couldn’t have announced their support for #ScrapPart5 at a more pivotal time for survivors. We only have a matter of days to stop the Government from introducing new exemptions, which would punish survivors of criminal exploitation and take support away from those too traumatised to share details of their abuse ‘fast enough’.”

“We know that there is no debate to ‘win’. Part 5 is simply wrong. Now, with Lush’s support, we can reach people up and down the country to mobilise the public awareness needed to Scrap Part 5.”

Hilary Jones, Ethics Director at Lush, said:

“Modern day slavery is still a reality in supply chains, both in the UK and worldwide, and companies have rightly been required to put in extra measures to root it out. It is therefore crucially important that once victims have been identified they are able to access the help and support they need to get their life back.

Now is NOT the time to reduce Government support for these incredibly vulnerable and abused individuals.”

Ann Jones, Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes, said:

“The WI is extremely concerned that proposed changes in Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill will cause serious harm to the fight against modern slavery. We believe that the Bill as it stands is likely to make it more difficult to identify victims of modern slavery and make it harder for them to access lifesaving support.

With victims of modern slavery being exploited by criminal traffickers across the UK, often hidden in plain sight, the government must Scrap Part 5 of the Bill or risk leaving thousands more victims facing continued abuse and destitution.” 

About Part 5

Part 5 is a cluster of measures in the Nationality and Borders Bill which would restrict support for survivors of trafficking (currently being debated in the House of Lords). These exemptions and restrictions include:

Trauma deadlines

Under Part 5, the Home Office would be able to remove support from survivors – even when they can evidence their exploitation – if details of abuse are shared ‘too late’.

Recovery from abuse does not follow a convenient timeline. Survivors need time to share details, as they may fear retaliation from traffickers, the risk of deportation, or the system itself due to struggles accessing a support worker or lawyer.

Restrictions on help

As well as the trauma deadline, survivors with a sentence of 12 months would be banned from accessing support. This would remove as many as half of victims from official channels, as 49% of survivors are forced to commit a crime as a result of their exploitation.

Part 5 would also give the Government new powers to provide support and immigration protections to survivors of modern slavery only where ‘necessary’ rather than as a guarantee.

Contact:

For spokesperson or broadcast opportunities, please contact the below.

After Exploitation: info@afterexploitation.org
Lush: lushpr@lush.co.uk

Useful links on Part 5:

  • The Scrap Part 5 MP action – It only takes 30 seconds to tell your MP that modern slavery survivors deserve more support, not less

  • About Part 5 – A longer briefing by After Exploitation with the support of a dozen human rights organisations including Anti Slavery International

  • What’s happening in the Lords?– An overview on Part 5 and the response to our concerns in the House of Lords

  • Protecting child victims – A blog by one of our #ScrapPart5 charity partners, ECPAT, on the impact of Part 5 on exploited children

  • The trauma deadline: Lily’s story – Lily is a campaigner and expert by experience. She worked with us and the Big Issue, explaining why she would have missed out on help had Part 5 applied to her

About After Exploitation

After Exploitation is a volunteer-led organisation that investigates hidden data on what happens to survivors after leaving exploitation.

The group has uncovered cases where UK-based survivors have been locked behind bars in immigration detention, because of their nationality, as well as cases where suspected survivors have not been passed on for support.

The group uses Freedom of Information (FOI) requests for much of its work, and supports charities and grassroots activists hoping to submit their own.

About Lush

Lush invent, manufacture and retail fresh handmade cosmetics.  A beauty company with a campaigning heart, Lush is passionate about direct action and uses their stores around the world as a platform to shed light on little known social and environmental issues.

“Damaging”: Part 5 condemned in the Lords

“Damaging”: Part 5 condemned in the Lords

Peers discussing modern slavery changes, in the Nationality and Borders Bill, have unanimously condemned Part 5. The campaign to scrap Part 5 is gaining momentum.

On 10th February 2022, the Lords began its line-by-line scrutiny of Part 5. The chamber was united in its confusion around why moves to restrict support for survivors of modern slavery were included in a Bill designed to ‘toughen up’ the immigration system.

“Government needs to rethink this all over again”

Baroness Hamwee (Lib Dem) pledged to “investigate” a way to leave out Part 5 at the next stage of debate entirely. “This is so shaming, because this part of the Bill affects people who we are so keen to support and protect”.

Lord Alf Dubs (Labour), notable for his work with Safe Passage, called Part 5 “depressing”.

“I do not even know what the case is for the Government to do this.”

Meanwhile, Baroness Meacher (cross bench) called for the Home Secretary to “face noble Lords directly” before “the wickedness of Part 5… is allowed to go by”. Lord Alton of Liverpool (cross bench) echoed the desire to remove Part 5 entirely, stating “the Government really need to recast and rethink this all over again”.

The debate gave prominence to the concerns of the charity sector. One of the key architects of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, Baroness Butler-Sloss, joined Lord Kerr of Kinlochard in drawing on the non-profit sector’s condemnation of “damaging and unhelpful” Part 5. She said:

“I do not know whether the Minister, who is not at the Home Office, realises the extent to which all the non-governmental organisations of this country… deplore this part of the Bill without exception. This Minister may not know that but, goodness me, the Home Office does.”

Some in the House objected to claims by the Government’s Lord Wolfson that Part 5 was drawn up based on ‘real world’ need to tackle abuse of the system. Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb (Green) rebutted:

“I don’t think this Government have any concept of what exists in the real world. It is not appropriate for the Minister to talk about the ‘real world’ when he is denying the stories he has heard today.”

“What evidence is there? I cannot find it”

Many in the House pointed to the lack of data to back up claims by Government that the National Referral Mechanism (the system for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking) was being abused. Lord Vernon Coaker (Labour) asked where there was “evidence” of a “real problem that needs urgently to be tackled?” “There is none… I cannot find it.”

Indeed, Freedom of Information requests by ourselves at After Exploitation have triggered responses from the Home Office claiming that ‘no central record on vexatious trafficking claims’ is held.

Some Peers raised that, even if the Home Office did evidence some abuse of the system, it would be a price worth paying to ensure some of the most vulnerable do receive help. Lord Debden (Conservative), said:

They have not proved it; there is no evidence for it; but, even if there were, one has to accept that the nature of the people we are dealing with means that we have to reach out further than we would in other circumstances.”

The Lord Bishop of Bristol echoed this sentiment, particularly in relation to ‘trauma deadlines’ which would see victims miss out on support if they struggle to disclose details of abuse ‘quickly enough’:

“What Clause 57 [and 58] will do, in order to cut down on a relatively small level of abuse, is add to the barriers that are put before victims.”

“It is a natural human reaction… one does not want to talk about one’s awful experiences”

Much was said of the need to challenge the ‘trauma deadlines’ set out in Part 5 under Clauses 57-58.

Lord Cashman (Labour), explained that it may take survivors a long period of time to overcome the stigma of exploitation. Those experiencing “appalling discrimination and persecution”, he said,often see “pain and shame buried for decades”.

Lord Dubs (Labour) defended the “natural human reaction” to “avoid talking about awful experiences”. He raised the example provided by one NGO, supporting women who were raped when seeking safety across the Sahara: “Many of them do not want to talk… it is not within their tradition and culture… yet here we are demanding that they should.”

Meanwhile, Baroness Prashar (cross bench) spoke to the “devastating effect” of “damaging the credibility” of victims:

[We should] not undermine victims by starting from a position of disbelieving them and then requiring them to prove otherwise. That would be regressive”

“Undoing years of hard work”

Other areas of concern included changes to the support ‘gateway’ for survivors, which would be made stricter under Part 5.

Currently, if specialist Home Office decision makers decide a survivor ‘may’ have been trafficked, this is the point at which they receive immediate help such as safe housing and counselling.

However under the Part 5 threshold changes, Lord Debden explained, the goal posts would be moved to put survivors under more scrutiny much earlier on in their support journeys:

“The moment you move away from “suspect but cannot prove” [as a decision-making threshold for accessing support], you make it more difficult, and I hope that this House will not allow the Government to do this””

“We are already in line with our international obligations… all we are doing is withdrawing to what are, in many of our minds, unsatisfactory internal obligations.”

Meanwhile, Baroness McIntosh highlighted After Exploitation’s data, to make the case that a ‘stricter’ system is not needed:

Raising the standard of proof at reasonable-grounds stage where minimal information is collected by the competent authority could foreseeably result in fewer referrals being made

It is worth noting that 81% of all negative decisions at this first stage which where reconsidered were found to have been wrong,

“Wiggle room”

Lord McColl (Conservative) was one of many peers to challenge the ‘case-by-case basis’ approach being favoured by the Government under Part 5. Whilst Clause 63 enshrines statutory (or ‘guaranteed’) support for survivors in law, it heightens the bar when it comes to which survivors can access it – providing support only where “necessary”, not in all cases where survivors are identified.

Lord McColl, the sponsor of a number of various private members’ Bills relating to modern slavery support, said:

“The problem with it (statutory support) not being in the Bill is that it gives the Government what one could describe as wriggle room. We do not know when the guidance will be issued, nor what it will say… by the time we do, we will have missed a valuable opportunity to make a significant difference to victims.”

“This is more restrictive than in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Why have they decided to restrict the support in this way?”

Despite promises for a minimum of 12 months’ support, McColl added, “to date the Government have not brought forward an amendment to ensure that this support is on a statutory footing, nor set out any details of what that might involve.”

Meanwhile, Lord Marrow (DUP) challenged restrictions on leave to remain for survivors in Clause 64 which would, again, see some survivors subjected to a stricter decision-making system giving Government more discretion to reject claims.

The Government have made the criteria much narrower than current guidance… [It] would prevent leave to remain being granted to a confirmed victim on the grounds of their need for support for their recovery, if they could receive that support elsewhere—even when the alternative country is not a signatory to the European trafficking convention

“Keeping victims in fear”

Finally, Peers voiced concerns around the widely slated ‘ban on support’ for survivors with a criminal sentence. Under Clause 62, victims who have served a sentence of 12 months or more would not have the right to be considered as a survivor, or to access support.

Lord Dubs pled with Government to “respect” that many survivors are “under threat”, “fearful”, and “may have been compelled” to commit a crime as a result of their exploitation or associated vulnerabilities.

Lord Bishop of Bristol also spoke to the impact that a ban on support for victims with offending histories would have on maintaining a fair system. He argued that such a measure would deter survivors from coming forward, and would embolden traffickers and create a ‘black and white’ system which does not recognise the nuances of why people may undertake criminalised activity:

“one of the most effective ways to keep victims in fear is to force them to commit crimes so that they will be criminalised if they come forward to the authorities.”

“things are not that easy. People who have done bad things can and often do become victims of slavery. People who have become victims of slavery find themselves compelled to do bad things.”

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


Experts by experience panel [January] – paid opportunity

Call for participants: Experts by experience workshop

After Exploitation is looking for six experts by experience to feed into planned campaign work against changes to modern slavery being made through the Nationality and Borders Bill. From January 2022, we will be working with politicians and journalists to secure support for removing Part 5 of the Bill which, if introduced, would see new support restrictions introduced for survivors of modern slavery.        

DATES:
Deadline: 5th January
Phone calls: Time slots between 3rd and 7th January
Workshops: One workshop, either on 7th or 15th January (timing to be confirmed after clarifying participants’ availability around possible childcare, work and caring commitments)

EXPENSES:
£15 per hour (£75 in total) via BACS or high street voucher

TIME COMMITMENT:
1 x 5-hour workshop, with optional time for reading

LOCATION:
Remote: Via Zoom

Two days before each workshop, a bundle will be sent to participants outlining content for the sessions, including planned talking points, news and developments in the campaign, and additional readings (which participants are not obligated to read, but are welcome to). Any questions before the sessions are encouraged and very welcome.

About the campaign

As part of this campaign, we are asking politicians to take a stand against Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, due to the impact it would have on slavery survivors. Under the Borders Bill, in its current form, many survivors would see their support cut due to the creation of cold-hearted ‘trauma deadlines’, which will remove support for survivors who do not share details of their abuse ‘quickly enough’ (clauses 57 and 58).

The Bill also includes concerning clauses which would see survivors subjected to greater risk of rejection earlier in their recovery journey (clause 59) and blocked from accessing help if they have a conviction of 12 months or more (clause 62). The latter move has been tabled despite the Home Office’s own data showing that half of reported survivors have been forced to commit criminalised activity as a result of their exploitation. For this reason, the so-called ‘public order exemption’ for survivors with convictions is a draconian and cruel step backwards which will rob support from many exploited people.

We are looking to not only mobilise MPs and Lords in the fight against the changes, but also to educate the general public on the key challenges facing survivors.

Content of the workshops

The workshop will cover which areas of the Bill should be our key priorities, media plans and creative campaigns in the run-up to Parliamentary action against Part 5, possible MP actions in the final stages of the Bill and ways to mobilise communities to fight cuts to trafficking support in the long-term.

What we are looking for

ESSENTIAL:

  • Personal experience of exploitation and trying to access support. This could be formal support channels (such as the National Referral Mechanism or criminal justice system) or informal support (such as through mutual aid, community-based groups or places of worship) 
  • Basic knowledge of modern slavery policy in the UK
  • Basic knowledge of support systems for survivors of slavery in the UK
  • Volunteering or campaigns experience

DESIRABLE BUT NOT ESSENTIAL:

  • Experience planning campaigns or drafting campaign material
  • Experience of media work, campaigns, public affairs, or research

How to apply

Email answers to the following questions to info@afterexploitation.org by 5pm on 5th January 2020.

  • Why do you want to take part in this workshop?
  • What skills and knowledge (including unpaid work and time spent researching independently) could you bring to the workshops? Please use examples
  • Do you have any accessibility needs (such as accommodations for disability or translation?)

Please note: You will be asked on a follow-up phone call about your right to work in the UK. This information will be kept confidentially, and is only asked because the law prevents us from paying money to those without a right to work. If this is the case, we will reimburse you with a voucher of your choosing for the same monetary value, and no electronic record of your immigration status will be held by After Exploitation.

Further opportunities

Following the workshops, there will be opportunities for campaigners to share their perspective and experiences of navigating systems of support (such as charities, the National Referral Mechanism, or criminal justice / police) with politicians directly if you would like to. You will also be invited to share your experiences and perspectives anonymously for campaign purposes if this is of interest. However, there is absolutely no obligation for participants to do so, and willingness to share experiences will not be weighted in the decision making process. Participants who want to take part in the above on a voluntary basis will be sent a free-form questionnaire with the option to pick and choose which questions are answered, with space granted to outline ‘red-line’ topics participants do not want to discuss.

If you have any questions about the workshop and application, or the campaign itself, contact Maya (info@afterexplotation.org)

Statement on Nationality and Borders Bill vote (08/12)

Today, the Nationality and Borders Bill passed its third reading, and various attempts to limit harms to trafficking survivors were rejected at report stage.

This is our statement:

“We are dejected after today’s vote. Even modest compromises, proposed to mitigate harm against trafficking victims, were rejected by Government in the Nationality and Borders Bill’s report stage.

New clause 138 (tabled by Stuart McDonald MP) would have removed the Bill’s ‘trauma deadline’, which will now see survivors penalised for not sharing horrific details of their exploitation ‘quickly enough’.

Meanwhile, new clause 6 (tabled by Holly Lynch MP) would have prevented the support limitations in Part 5 from applying to child trafficking victims. However, now that this measure has also been rejected, we will see a tougher set of criteria applied to support access, even amongst those exploited as children. 

Lastly, new clause 47 (tabled by Iain Duncan Smith MP) would have extended basic support for trafficking survivors to a modest minimum of 12 months. Instead, this clause was not put to a vote, so survivors will face a harsher system with only a guaranteed minimum of 30 days’ safe housing, counselling and subsistence. [Edit, 9th December 2021: Whilst Government has committed to a minimum of 12 months’ “appropriate individualised support” for “those in need of tailored support”, this case-by-case approach is far from an enshrined right for every victim. Government will still be able to use complete discretion in deciding which survivors ‘deserve’ higher levels of assistance, if any.]”

“In essence, Part 5 in the Nationality and Borders Bill is creating a direction of travel in which survivors are asked to shoulder greater burdens of proof, whilst the support they can access becomes less and less tangible.”

We must now mobilise to curtail some of the most serious damage to survivors from being enacted. Take our online action, mobilising politicians to reject Part 5.

SIGN OUR ACTION AGAINST
THE BORDERS BILL

About Part 5 of the Nationality and Borders Bill

Currently, survivors of slavery in the UK face a ‘lottery’ of support, often struggling to access safe housing[i], counselling, or even basic financial subsistence consistently, despite having a legal right to access such help[ii]. During recovery, severely exploited people are at increased risk of suicide attempts, long-term and severe depression, anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)[iii], health complications as a result of sexually transmitted infections[iv], and dependency or withdrawal where traffickers use alcohol and drugs as tools of coercion[v]. Delays in support can significantly hamper survivors’ ability to begin recovery.  We are so concerned that support will be even harder for survivors to access under the Nationality and Borders Bill.

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

The Bill also includes concerning clauses which would see survivors subjected to greater risk of rejection earlier in their recovery journey (clause 59) and blocked from accessing help if they have a conviction of 12 months (clause 62). The latter move has been tabled despite the Home Office’s own data showing that a majority of reported survivors have been forced to commit some form of criminal activity as a result of their exploitation[vi]. For this reason, the so-called ‘public order exemption’, for survivors with convictions, is a draconian and cruel step backwards which will rob support from many of the most vulnerable.

As the Nationality and Borders Bill makes its way through Parliament, more than 100 non-profit organisations have raised the alarm on Part 5[vii].

Clauses 57-58: Cruel ‘trauma deadlines’

Survivors are frequently psychologically, physically or sexually abused by traffickers as a means of maintaining control[viii]. For this reason, the traumatic nature of both exploitation and ill-treatment at the hand 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’. A lack of guaranteed immigration protection also puts such survivors at risk of deportation.

Clause 59: Greater risk of rejection

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 fear of deportation, past experiences where an authority has failed them, or anxiety around organized criminal networks retaliating against themselves or loved ones. Last year, as many as 2,178 suspected trafficking victims were identified by UK authorities but never referred on for support[ix].

Now, under clause 59, the first decision-making stage 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.

Clause 62: Blocks to support access

Under clause 62, survivors of criminal exploitation will likely miss out on support. 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).

In a majority of cases, traffickers force their victims to undertake criminal activity as part of their exploitation, putting more than half of reported survivors at risk of ‘support bans’ under Clause 62. We are concerned that Clause 62 will create a two-tier system of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ survivors, potentially classing thousands out of support.

Wider changes in the Bill

The spirit with which the wider Bill has been introduced is also counter to the Government’s stated aim of identifying trafficking. Moves to allow for off-shore 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 significant portion of the Borders Bill, intending to punish people with insecure immigration status, will have a significant impact on survivors of modern slavery, and our 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.” [x]


[i] Hibiscus (2020). Closed Doors. Accessible: https://hibiscusinitiatives.org.uk/closed-doors-a-new-report-by-hibiscus/  

[ii] 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/

[iii] 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

[iv] 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

[v] 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

[vi] 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

[vii] Human Trafficking Foundation et al (2021). A Statement from Leading Organisations in the Anti Slavery Sector. Accessible: https://afterexploitation.files.wordpress.com/2021/12/a524f-antislaverysectorstatementn26bbill.pdf

[viii] 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

[ix] 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 Thornton, S., (2021). Correspondence to Home Secretary by Independent Anti Slavery Commissioner. Accessible:

[x] https://www.antislaverycommissioner.co.uk/media/1668/iasc-letter-to-the-rt-hon-priti-patel-mp-home-secretary-march-2021.pdf

What is Anti Slavery Day 2021?

What is Anti Slavery Day? (Monday, 18th October 2021)

Anti Slavery Day is backed by lots of community groups, high-profile charities, businesses, and individuals as an opportunity to highlight the scale and impact of severe exploitation.

What is modern slavery?

Modern slavery is when someone subjects another person to undertake forced labour, against their will, for their own personal or financial gain. Types of modern slavery recorded in the UK include criminalised activity (such as pick pocketing or marijuana cultivation), domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, forced labour, and organ harvesting. Sometimes, people will be subjected to more than one type of exploitation. Often, sexual, psychological and physical violence will be used by traffickers as a means of controlling victims in cases of both adult and childhood exploitation.

Last year, 10,613 trafficking cases were referred to the Home Office, but the actual number of suspected slaves is much higher. 2,178 suspected victims were identified but never referred for support. Shockingly, these figures are the tip of the iceberg. The Centre for Social Justice estimates that 100,000 people are living in slave-like conditions in the UK right now, but few of them will go on to access justice and support.

How are charities marking Anti Slavery Day?     

This year is different to most, as charities across the sector are putting energies into fighting the damaging New Plan for Immigration. The ‘New Plan’ includes attempts to ‘tear up’ parts of the Modern Slavery Act.

Under the proposed law change, the ‘New Plan for Immigration’ would see survivors subjected to more suspicion, even earlier in their support journey. The Nationality and Borders Bill, back in Parliament this coming week, proposes an even ‘tougher’ trafficking determination process (called the National Referral Mechanism),a ‘public order’ exemption which could see survivors of criminal exploitation banned from support, and moves to hold asylum seekers in ‘off-shore’ and prison-like settings, which would make identifying survivors even harder. Rather than simply raising awareness of the horrors of modern slavery, many charities are using this year’s Anti Slavery Day to ask the UK Government to halt its plans to restrict survivor support.

Modern slavery in numbers

  • Last year, 10,613 slavery cases were recorded to the Home Office
  • The Centre for Social Justice estimates that this is the tip of the iceberg, and most survivors will never be identified under the current system. They estimate that more than 100,000 people are living under slave-like condition in the UK right now.
  • Each year, 2,178 suspected victims are identified by authorities but not passed on for support
  • The most common types of exploitation recorded in the UK are for criminal exploitation (34%), labour exploitation (21%) or a combination of more than one form of exploitation
  • Most potential survivors are non-UK nationals (66%) but a growing number are UK nationals (34%), who must also make a convincing case in order to access help from the Home Office

What risks face survivors after leaving exploitation?

  • Immigration detention: Many survivors are locked up as a result of their immigration status before they are recognised. In part, this is due to inconsistent legal advice, as well as poor vetting within the UK’s immigration detention process. Since January 2019, at least 2,914 potential victims have been held under Immigration Powers.
  • Re-trafficking: A lack of guaranteed protection and safe housing for both UK and non-UK national victims can put survivors at risk of re-trafficking. With no shelter, victims are more easily targeted by the same networks who exploited them in the first place. Only 21% of people supported as survivors of trafficking have access to safe housing in the UK.
  • Financial strain: Survivors have been subjected to numerous attempts to cut financial support, including an attempt to cut benefits to asylum seeking potential victims by £30 a week during the height of the pandemic.
  • Deportation: Even when survivors go to great lengths to prove they have been trafficked, they are not necessarily allowed to rebuild their lives in the UK. Not all people who have been trafficked are eligible for asylum, and only 12% of survivors who apply for discretionary leave are successful.

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.

New data: Majority of trafficking claims found to be ‘positive’ after reconsideration

  • 78% of challenged trafficking claims later found in favour of claimant

  • 81% of reconsidered claims at initial ‘Reasonable Grounds’ stage are later positive, meaning potential survivors who should have been granted safe housing and support may have faced delays in getting help

  • Charities condemn anticipated impact of ‘New Plan for Immigration’ on modern slavery survivors, claiming changes will make a “bad system worse”

New data secured via Freedom of Information (FOI) by After Exploitation reveals that a majority of reconsidered trafficking claims later rule in favour of the claimant. Last year, 78% of reconsidered trafficking claims were granted a positive decision, after a challenge through the Home Office-run National Referral Mechanism (NRM). [Download the Freedom of Information (FOI) request]


 About the system

Recognition from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the sole way that a survivor of trafficking can be recognised as a trafficking or slavery victim by the UK State. The decision-making process includes three stages, during which survivors may slip through the net.

Referral

In order to be referred for trafficking support, an individual must be identified as having trafficking indicators by ‘First Responders’ such as the police, Home Office or a specified charity[1]. Home Office guidance advises First Responders that “there will be some cases of exploitation that do not meet the threshold for modern slavery”, so the seriousness and conditions of exploitation is under consideration by a First Responder even before a referral has been made[2].

Stage 1: Reasonable Grounds decision

At the first ‘decision-making’ stage, the Home Office decides if there are reasonable grounds to believe someone should be recognised as a ‘potential victim’[3]. This stage is vital to guard against survivors ‘slipping through the net’ as a positive Reasonable Grounds decision makes potential victims eligible for “assistance and support” such as safe housing, counselling, some basic financial assistance, and temporary protection from deportation under both the Modern Slavery Act 2015 and international law[4]. A rejection at this stage puts survivors at risk of serious harm, as a positive Reasonable Grounds is a ‘gateway’ of support for victims, even dictating access to secure safe housing.

After Exploitation’s FOIs show that, last year, 81% of challenged Reasonable Grounds rejections were positive. In practice, this means that 152 potential survivors may have faced needless delays in receiving the urgent support they were entitled to.

Stage 2: Conclusive Grounds decision

At the final decision-making stage of the NRM, the Home Office decides whether there are ‘conclusive grounds’ to believe someone has been trafficked. This final decision dictates whether someone is recognised as a confirmed survivor of trafficking. Whilst there is no guaranteed immigration protection for survivors in the UK[5], a positive final decision is important as it triggers automatic consideration for immigration leave.

After Exploitation’s FOIs show that, last year, 75% of challenged Conclusive Grounds decisions were later positive. In practice, this means that 103 survivors may have faced needless delays in receiving a positive decision, and non-UK nationals within this figure may have been living with the threat of deportation or detention before receiving one.


Data

National Referral Mechanism (NRM) reconsiderations
  20202021*
RG negative36 (19%)10 (15%)
RG positive152 (81%)58 (85%)
18868
CG negative34 (25%)Incomplete data
CG positive103 (75%)Incomplete data
137
Total negative70 (22%)
Total positive255 (78%)
325

‘A bad system made worse’

The findings are concerning in light of the Government’s intention to raise the ‘threshold’ on the first, Reasonable Grounds, stage of the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) which charities have argued would make it even harder for victims to be recognised[6].

Today’s data shows that only 325 trafficking rejections were reconsidered last year, compared to the 1,213 trafficking rejections issued in the same period. 188 reconsiderations were initiated for Reasonable Grounds decisions. The recorded number of potentially wrongly refused trafficking claims is likely the ‘tip of the iceberg’, as no guaranteed advocacy is in place to ensure that survivors have the support they need to initiate a reconsideration at the first ‘Reasonable Grounds’ stage.

Under previous Home Office guidance, only the First Responder agency who first identified a victim had the power to challenge a refusal via reconsideration, and these agencies had “[no] obligation” to “consider that request or provide reasons for not making a reconsideration request” for a suspected survivor[7]. Under new guidance published this month, individuals will be able to request reconsideration themselves, but will only be accepted for reconsideration at the discretion of Home Office staff[8]. In response to our briefing today, Anti Slavery International has raised concerns that a lack of pre-NRM support, initially promised in 2017 but never delivered, has left ‘rejected’ survivors without the advice needed to appeal a wrongful rejection.

Anti Slavery International’s UK & Europe Programme Manager, Kate Roberts, said:

“Independent advocacy and support is vital to challenge poor [trafficking] decision making. Specialist government-funded support is not available until following a positive first stage decision. This means most who are wrongly refused are unlikely to receive help in appealing a negative decision. This means they could be left without support and vulnerable to re-trafficking or re-exploitation.”

“Anti-Slavery International oppose any proposal to increase the Reasonable Grounds test applied in practice as proposed in the Home Office’s New Plan for Immigration. Instead, given that referrals can only be made by a designated First Responder and, considering the difficulties for someone to evidence their exploitation, particularly before receiving support, all negative decisions, including at the first stage, should be flagged for reconsideration to ensure victims of trafficking don’t slip between the gaps into re-exploitation.”

After Exploitation’s Director, Maya Esslemont, said:

“Survivors are routinely denied trafficking support, such as safe housing, medical intervention or psychological help, even when they are entitled to it. Potential delays in providing assistance are not just inconveniences, but life-threatening failures which can leave survivors at risk of destitution, reprisals from traffickers, and repeat exploitation.”

“Whilst some additional trafficking rejections may be subject to judicial review, reconsideration data is illuminating as this process is the most accessible route for challenging rejected claims. Judicial reviews will not be realistically accessible to survivors who never secure legal representation.”

“It is vital that the Government scraps the plan to make an already hostile trafficking process even tougher. The New Plan for Immigration must be stopped, and the long-awaited pre-referral ‘Places of Safety’ support scheme must be rolled out, so that suspected victims can access advocacy throughout the whole decision-making process.”

Every Child Protected Against Trafficking’s CEO, Patricia Durr, said:

“It is concerning that negative NRM decisions are not being put forward for reconsideration, particularly as the data shows that those that are, are overwhelmingly being overturned. It is not clear how many of these cases involve children but it exacerbates our concerns about the NRM and its suitability for making decisions about children. Child victims’ cases should be examined within existing local safeguarding structures and decisions should be made in line with their best interests.”


NOTE (02/07/2021): The Home Office press office has clarified with journalists that, in some instances, reconsiderations may be requested by a First Responder in cases where an initial decision was “not negative”. When alternate figures are provided by Government to press, we will update this blog accordingly.


#SCRAPTHEPLAN:
After Exploitation’s recommendations

·  Halt plans to allow support to be denied to survivors before referral under the ‘New Plan for Immigration’

·   Cancel damaging changes to the National Referral Mechanism, including the proposed restrictions on who is recognised as a ‘potential victim’ at the Reasonable Grounds stage

·    Improve identification by rolling out advocacy via the promised ‘Places of Safety’ scheme to increase referral rates

·     Commit to merit-based trafficking and asylum decision-making, with the former function removed from the Home Office’s jurisdiction in order to guard against perverse incentive to deport or detain victims

·      Stop enacting policies with the intent of punishing asylum seekers, all of which will negatively impact non-UK survivors’ ability to disclose experiences of trafficking. This includes halting plans for Australia-style offshore processing of asylum claims, and expanded use of barracks and detention for those awaiting a claim, which would all see vulnerable people separated from communities and advocates.


[1] College of Policing (2020). First Response and the National Referral Mechanism. Accessible: https://www.app.college.police.uk/app-content/major-investigation-and-public-protection/modern-slavery/nationalreferral-mechanism/
[2]
 Home Office (2020). National Referral Mechanism Guidance: Adult (England and Wales). Accessible: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/human-trafficking-victims-referral-and-assessment-forms/guidanceon-the-national-referral-mechanism-for-potential-adult-victims-of-modern-slavery-england-and-wales

[3] ATHUB (2020). How Do I Refer a Client into the NRM and What Happens Next? Accessible: https://athub.org.uk/knowledge-base/how-do-i-refer-a-client-into-the-nrm-and-what-happensnext/#:~:text=gsi.gov.uk-,Reasonable%20grounds%20decision,I%20suspect%20but%20cannot%20prove

[4] Soroya, K., (2020). Briefing: The support system for migrant victims of trafficking. Free Movement. Accessible: https://www.freemovement.org.uk/briefing-the-support-system-for-migrant-victims-of-human-trafficking/

[5] Taylor, D., (2021) Home Office minister rejects extra support for trafficking victims. The Guardian. Accessible: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/jan/11/home-office-minister-rejects-plans-for-extra-support-for-trafficking-victims

[6] Bulman, M., (2021). ‘Grave danger’ trafficking victims will be ‘ignored’ under UK immigration plans, warns modern slavery tsar. The Independent. Accessible: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/uk-immigration-trafficking-modern-slavery-b1846089.html

[7] ATHUB (2020). NRM. Accessible: https://athub.org.uk/knowledge-base/nrm/

[8] Home Office (2021). Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for England and Wales (under s49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015) and Non-Statutory Guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland. pp 146. Accessible: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/993172/Modern_Slavery_Statutory_Guidance__EW__Non-Statutory_Guidance__SNI__v2.3.pdf