Guarantee support for all modern slavery victims - MP Borders Bill action - FreedomUnited.org

Guarantee support for all UK slavery victims

Home Office - March 2019
Handing in petition - March 2019

Maya’s story highlights how important it is for victims to receive specialist long-term support and access to other services to overcome their traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives.

The law in England and Wales does not guarantee this. It offers an initial 45 days reflection and recovery period to those the government believes may be victims, whilst in Northern Ireland, and Scotland where this period is being extended to 90 days, legislation guarantees victims will be provided with support.

Lord McColl’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would ensure that victims like Maya will receive a support worker and a care plan for 12 months immediately following their formal recognition as a victim to help them make that journey to survivor and a life that is free for good.

Although the UK government has pledged its commitment to ending modern slavery, if this Bill doesn’t receive the attention it deserves, it risks failing to successfully move through the parliamentary process. That’s why we’re joining forces with the ‘Free For Good’ coalition of UK organizations.

Maya’s* story in her own words:

“I am fortunate enough to say that I am a survivor and no longer a victim of modern slavery, however from the age of 12 to 19 I was a slave to sex trafficking.

Through this crime, everything was taken from me: my control, my dignity, my future, my voice. I became hidden, from the years of 2005 to 2013 I was a statistic, a number within the figure of ‘potential victims of trafficking within the UK’.

Nobody should ever become a victim of trafficking, I should never have been trafficked for those many years undetected. I was not only a child but I was a child in a school. A child with a GP, a child with foster parents and social workers, all which failed throughout seven years to identify that I was being tricked, controlled, tortured and sold every day.

I spent years accepting that what my life had become couldn’t and wouldn’t ever change. It was impossible for me to speak out and nobody around me took any notice of the signs right in front of them.

However, I was extremely lucky to have been rescued four years ago, and all it took was one individual police officer not to dismiss the signs and to look further than what you see on the surface. I then spent the standard 45 days in a safe house. Although I am extremely grateful to have been in a safe house, 45 days isn’t enough time to establish the needs in each individual case, let alone recover from them.

Long-term support is crucial for any survivor’s recovery, without it you may as well not have been rescued at all. I spent the first two years of my recovery moving to four different places, all which claimed to support survivors of trafficking. Unfortunately, they did not have the knowledge and training so there was no recovery. Those two years were unbearable and as a result, my mental health and physical health suffered hugely.

In July 2015 I hit the jackpot! The Snowdrop Project. The first charity to provide adequate and trained long-term support. Having a support worker, counsellor and supportive community has changed my life drastically.

Being a victim of trafficking leaves its mark mentally and physically, four years on and I am still dealing with the effects of this crime but I have not had to do it alone.

Each survivor should be as lucky as I was to have long-term support. The effects and obstacles that you are faced with when rescued should never be faced alone.

It is also vitally important when working with vulnerable people who have been through such a high level of trauma that you have the right training or knowledge. From my own experiences, I found the places I lived that didn’t have it were more detrimental to my long-term recovery… Conversely, I have been able to grow in independence, confidence and strength with the ability to now make choices for the future I have back.

I count it an honour to use my experiences and my voice to speak out on behalf of those who don’t have a voice to help make the necessary changes to survivor care and the movement to eradicate Modern Slavery.”

*The name has been changed to protect the privacy of the individual survivor.

  • November 2021: Freedom United and 100+ leaders in the anti-slavery sector are asking for urgent changes to the new Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through Parliament. The Bill could mean more victims of modern slavery going unidentified, including British victims and children, and make it harder to prosecute traffickers. Read our full statement.

  • March 15, 2021: Freedom United is urgently calling on the U.K. government to adopt the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill and introduce the legislation in the next parliamentary session. Read the press release here.

  • January 11, 2021:  We are disappointed to receive a response from the UK government stating they do not support the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill in its current form and do not believe survivors should be given 12 months leave to remain. It is deeply concerning that immigration priorities once again trump the meaningful recovery & protection of survivors. Read the full response from the government here.

  • October 18, 2020: To mark UK Anti-Slavery Day, we’ve signed a letter calling for better immigration protections for all survivors of modern slavery in the UK. Read the letter here.

  • October 14, 2020: Lord McColl and Iain Duncan Smith MP are calling on the UK government to support an amendment to the Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill which would provide all EU victims of modern slavery with 12 months leave to remain in the UK. Read more here.

  • Jan 22, 2018: Campaign Launches

Chip in and help end modern slavery once and for all.

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Ask your MP for urgent changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill

The Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through Parliament could mean more victims of modern slavery going unidentified, including British victims and children, and make it harder to prosecute traffickers.

To make this message even louder, we need your help.

Step 1: Find your MP’s Twitter handle and email address by typing in your postcode here.

Step 2: Copy and paste the message below into your email to send a message to your MP.

Step 3: Don’t forget to let us know you took action by completing the form below the template email!

 

Dear [Insert MP name]

I am writing as a concerned constituent [insert address with postcode]. You will soon be asked to vote again on the Nationality and Borders Bill, and I ask that you consider the inadvertent but serious harm this Bill is likely to cause to the fight against slavery.

Unless we significantly increase prosecution rates, slavery will remain a low risk/high reward crime for traffickers and the costs to this country of modern slavery will continue to rise.

Key to securing more convictions is victims’ testimony and engagement with the police. Yet this Bill is likely to make it more difficult to identify victims and will hinder their access to support so their vital evidence will be lost. It misses the opportunity to enable more victims to engage with prosecutions.  

It is my view that modern slavery and immigration are distinct matters and that the clauses within Part 5 of the Bill would be better being removed from the Bill and more carefully considered in the current review of the Modern Slavery Strategy. I fear this section will not achieve its aims in its current form. 

If Part 5 is not removed from the Bill, I would ask you to support the anti-slavery sector’s proposed amendments to Part 5 in order to mitigate against these very real risks and ensure this Bill is fairer to victims and firmer on criminals.

My specific concerns are as follows:

British victims of modern slavery will be harmed by this Bill

This Bill’s purpose is to address immigration and asylum concerns in the UK, but modern slavery is an issue of serious and organised crime, not primarily immigration. 

The changes to the modern slavery system will affect all victims, including British nationals. 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.

 

A time limit on reporting could mean thousands of victims not being identified

Experts in policing, the courts and the anti-slavery sector agree that this Bill will make it harder for victims of slavery, including British victims, to be identified and supported.

One of the main reasons is that it puts pressure on victims to identify themselves within a limited timeframe, without consideration for the impact that trauma may have on the victim’s ability to disclose their experiences. 

This has echoes of the mistakes we made around historic rape cases: victims could feel if they have missed the timeframe that there is no point in coming forward. It means fewer victims will be identified and helped, and more criminals free to exploit the most vulnerable in our area.

 

Victims who are forced to commit crimes, including child victims of County Lines, could receive no help and remain trapped in exploitation

The Bill will also disqualify from support any victim of modern slavery who is considered to be a “threat to public order”, using a broad definition which fails to take account of the fact that many victims will be forced to commit crime as part of their exploitation (including victims of County Lines drugs gangs), or that victims can be targeted for exploitation because they have criminal convictions.

I fear this will send a message to traffickers that they are free to exploit people with criminal records (including for crimes committed under duress) as they will no longer qualify for help.

Experts agree that it is likely that the fewer people we identify as victims of modern slavery, the fewer traffickers will be caught and ultimately convicted. Despite the Bill’s stated intentions to be “firm but fair”, it is unfair to victims of slavery, while making it easier for the perpetrators to get away with their crimes.

That is why I am asking you to (1) support the removal of Part 5 from the Bill and if Part 5 is not removed (2) support the anti-slavery sector’s amendments to Part 5. 

I, like you, want to eradicate modern slavery from our area. But to do so requires us to provide support, not barriers, to victims so that we see more traffickers behind bars.

Yours sincerely,

[Insert name and address]

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