Borders bill: write to your MP to protect victims of modern slavery

Hope for Justice is joining forces with almost every other anti-slavery charity in the UK in urging the Government to amend the forthcoming Nationality and Borders Bill.

The bill is a new set of laws to address immigration and asylum concerns in the UK but it also creates serious challenges to the fight against modern slavery. If unchanged, it will make it more difficult to identify victims and hinder their access to support.

Hope for Justice, along with 70 other anti-slavery organisations and charities, and the new Coalition to Stop Slavery, is calling on our supporters to share this letter with their MP, lobbying them to vote in favour of amendments that will safeguard victims.

The UK’s Independent Anti-Slaver Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, agrees that the bill in its current form will fail victims of modern slavery and says it “could significantly undermine the ability to bring traffickers to justice”.

Also speaking out in opposition is the co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, Karen Bradley MP, who was formerly the Minister responsible for tackling modern slavery and who helped guide the legislation that brought in the Modern Slavery Act through Parliament. In an article for PoliticsHome, she says: “I believe [the Borders bill] risks taking us several steps backwards in the fight to put traffickers behind bars.”

One of the major concerns over the Borders Bill is that it puts pressure on survivors to self-identify as a victim within a limited timeframe, without consideration for the impact that trauma may have on their ability to disclose their experiences. This is despite Home Office guidance which recognises that many victims of modern slavery are fearful of engaging with police, believing they may incur retributions from their traffickers, or have a mistrust of authorities, meaning it may take months, even years, for victims to feel able to talk about their exploitation.

And the fewer victims who are formally identified, the fewer traffickers will be caught and convicted.

In its current form, the bill would make changes to the modern slavery system despite this being an issue of serious and organised crime – not primarily immigration. While some victims of modern slavery might be from overseas and be part of the asylum system, a significant number are from the UK: in 2020, 34% of all victims of modern slavery identified in the UK were British.

Read an analysis by Hope for Justice’s UK Advocacy Manager, Ellie Russell, on how the bill in its current form would make it more difficult for trafficking survivors to be granted leave to remain. This decision should always take into account each individual’s full circumstances. —

Further still, the bill sends a message to traffickers that they can exploit people with uncertain or insecure immigration status, or criminal records, even for minor offences, or those committed under duress, as they will no longer qualify for help. We are concerned this will lead to a rise in child exploitation as well as county lines cases, which is when children and vulnerable adults are exploited to move and store illegal drugs within the UK.

The bill is expected to go to its third reading in the House of Commons this week, with MPs due to debate and then vote on it. Please join us in asking them to vote in support of amendments to clauses 62 and 64.