Borders Bill must help to identify, protect and support trafficking victims

The UK Government has announced that the Nationality and Borders Bill will enter Parliament, heralding fundamental reforms which it says will prioritise those most in need of protection upon arrival in the country.

The bill, if passed, will make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission to be here. Hope for Justice has concerns that the lack of safe and legal routes will significantly increase the risk of exploitation by unscrupulous criminals who target highly vulnerable people.

Could you write to your MP and urge changes to this bill, before it is too late? You can find a draft letter to download and personalise here and you can find your MP’s details to send it to by clicking here.

The requirements in the bill would have an impact on important international obligations such as the Refugee Convention and the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. The changes would significantly reduce the chances of the most vulnerable (including children) to be safeguarded and supported. The provisions would also make it harder for victims to engage with criminal proceedings, meaning that traffickers are less likely to be brought to justice. This would increase the risk of exploitation in the future, for those victims and others.

Hope for Justice believes the only way to tackle human trafficking (and the related but different crime of people smuggling) is to ensure that legislation, policy and practice is in line with international obligations and is evidence-based. Survivors (as well as charities and other organisations that focus on survivors’ rights and needs) must be meaningfully engaged in the development of legislation, to ensure those needs are met.

Phillipa Roberts, Director of Legal Policy (Solicitor) at Hope for Justice, said: “In order to prevent all forms of exploitation and ensure a fair and compassionate migration system, it is vital that there are safe and legal routes to arrive at and enter the UK. Victims of modern slavery and human trafficking must be identified without risk of criminalization, and provided with long-term advocacy, support and regularisation of their status to make recovery possible. This reduces the risk of exploitation and re-exploitation. Long-term advocacy and support also empowers survivors to make choices about their lives, including whether to cooperate with police and other authorities and whether to pursue civil actions.

“Survivors play a vital role in bringing human traffickers to justice, and making the UK a hostile environment for those who exploit. Ensuring survivors are identified, protected, safeguarded and supported must therefore be central to all aspects of legislation and policy.”