HSBC U.K. continues to provide a model to other banking institutions with its trafficking survivor services or ‘Survivor Bank’. Launched in 2019, this service allows survivors to open an account without the need for photo ID or proof of address which are documents that many survivors lack.
Rather than provide this paperwork, the bank works closely with charitable organizations supporting survivors, using an application process specifically designed for survivors, aligned with the U.K.’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The NRM is the system through which victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are identified and supported.
The Independent reports,
HSBC UK said that among the people it has supported, a woman, originally from Albania was studying at university before she became a victim of sexual exploitation. She is now receiving specialist support in a safe house.
She said: “A bank account feels personal, something that is mine to keep where I can save money and use the card to spend on things I like. It is something I know I will need and will be very helpful in my future so I would like to thank HSBC UK for making this possible.”
Escaping forced labor is just the beginning of a long, arduous process to recovery for survivors. The institutional barriers to a semblance of a normal life are numerous, particularly if survivors were forced to commit crimes.
This is a particularly urgent need in the U.K. which, according to experts and advocacy organizations, is becoming an origin country for trafficking. Nevertheless, the government continues to focus its anti-trafficking efforts at their borders.
Furthermore, although the U.K. government claims a firm commitment to ending modern slavery in its borders, criminal networks report that their misplaced border security measures are only serving to make trafficking more lucrative.
Indeed, the U.K. has come under harsh criticism from NGOs with regards to its record on supporting modern slavery survivors. Earlier this month, Freedom United added our voice to a statement on planned immigration policy which will have dire consequences for immigrant survivors.
Ann-Marie Douglas of the Salvation Army told the Independent,
“We have been delighted to work with HSBC UK to improve access to banking for people who have been marginalised and denied markers or status that most people would take for granted. It opens up new possibilities and gives people choices on how and where they spend their money.”
Join the Freedom United campaign calling on the U.K. government to provide all modern slavery survivors with specialist statutory support.