Survivors of modern slavery must be #FreeForGood
Hope for Justice is continuing to support a campaign calling for new legislation to provide survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking with at least a year’s support, with leave to remain. This vital time would allow them to recover more fully from their ordeal, as well as participate in proceedings to bring perpetrators to justice.
The #FreeForGood campaign, which Hope for Justice has supported since January 2018, now wants the Government to use the forthcoming Queen’s Speech to announce the extended support for survivors as laid out in the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill. The Bill was first introduced in 2017, but has not yet won the level of support it needs among all MPs to become law.
Phillipa Roberts, Director of Legal Policy and Solicitor at Hope for Justice, said: “If the UK is to establish itself as a world leader in the fight against modern slavery, it must place survivors at the heart of this strategy. All too often, survivors slip through the gaps in existing policy and legislation, placing them at risk of being exploited again.
“This Bill would be a crucial step forward. It would ensure victims feel confident to come forward and obtain the protection and support they need, to empower them to escape exploitation and also rebuild their lives and thrive in society.”
You can read more about the campaign in the news release from #FreeForGood, below:
Campaigners are calling on the Government to adopt a Private Members Bill extending support for victims of modern slavery in the forthcoming Queens Speech.
The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill was first introduced by Conservative peer Lord McColl of Dulwich in 2017 and passed through the House of Lords but ran out of time in the Commons. The current version of the Bill was introduced after the last election but has fallen victim to restrictions on parliamentary time caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. With rumours that the parliamentary session will end in April, the Bill is running out of time.
NGOs and businesses from the Free for Good campaign say that the Government must act now to prevent yet more victims of modern slavery being unable to rebuild their lives or feel secure enough to act as witnesses in criminal investigations into their exploiters.
Statutory guidance makes clear that the current support structures are designed as a crisis intervention calling it a ‘bridge to lift adult victims out of a situation of exploitation’ offering only ‘temporary support’.
But without pathways to long term recovery this support is little more than a sticking plaster leaving victims at risk of re-trafficking while traffickers continue to operate with impunity, exploiting more and more victims.
The current support system relies on transferring victims to other services for their long term recovery. However, without immigration leave many victims are ineligible for those services, ending up either homeless and destitute, or stuck in safe house accommodation stretching the capacity of those services and unable to regain their independence and continue their recovery.
Too few victims are being granted discretionary leave (the only special form of immigration status available for victims of modern slavery) which would enable them to access services, work and rebuild their lives. Just 70 victims were granted discretionary leave in 2019 compared with 123 in 2015.
The Free for Good Campaign is calling on the Government to provide victims with at least one year of support with leave to remain as set out in the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, giving victims the certainty needed for a proper recovery process to begin.
The Campaign is urging the Government to take the opportunity of the Queens Speech to commit to introducing its own legislation offering support and leave to remain for all confirmed victims for at least a year after they leave the National Referral Mechanism.
In doing so the Government would respond to the challenge set by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner who outlined the issues with the discretionary leave system in January and commented ‘surely 2021 is the year to resolve this’.
For more information go to: www.freeforgood.org.uk – The UK’s campaign for supporting victims of slavery to live free for good.