In a VICE News video report this week, anti-trafficking experts, advocates and allies break down how governments use the fight against modern slavery as a smokescreen for harmful policies that perpetuate exploitation.
Modern slavery is a systemic problem that cause by constructed vulnerabilities generated by policies that drive discrimination, poverty, homelessness and force people into accepting exploitative labor conditions.
Hostile immigration policies perpetuate exploitation in various ways. For some, arriving in a new country through illegal routes is the only option available in order to build a better life for themselves or escape situations of persecution, violence and exploitation in their country of origin. This creates a point of vulnerability that traffickers can then exploit, knowing that people migrating through dangerous routes without the required legal documentation are unlikely to report exploitation to the authorities.
It also means that survivors of trafficking don’t feel safe approaching authorities for support because of the fear of being sent to an immigration detention center – essentially a prison – and being deported right back to the conditions they were escaping in the first instance.
In the U.K., the government prides itself as a world leader in tackling modern slavery as a result of the U.K.’s 2015 Modern Slavery Act. However, authorities continue to knowingly detain survivors in prison-like settings, prevent survivors seeking asylum from working, and doesn’t provide guaranteed specialist statutory support survivors need to recover from their experiences.
It is convenient for governments to pin the blame for modern slavery on traffickers when in reality, vulnerabilities to modern slavery are perpetuated by our political systems that prioritize immigration targets over human rights and building communities resilient to trafficking.
Emily Kenway, modern slavery expert, told VICE News:
More recently, governments have shifted the blame for modern slavery onto us, the consumers. Telling us that we as consumers can shop our way out of modern slavery is not correct and is also really problematic. We’re being made responsible for something that is actually a systemic failure. We could have laws called joint liability laws that make brands legally responsible for the conditions in their supply chains.
Watch the full video here.
Freedom United is urgently calling on all states to stop detaining potential and confirmed trafficking survivors and release all survivors from prison-like settings in line with international standards.