Thousands of suspected modern slavery cases were recently rejected by the UK’s home office due to a crackdown on “bogus claims” reports Holly Bancroft from Independent. However, charities warn thousands may have been wrongly refused support due to impossible standards of proof and a lack of clarity around how decisions should be made.
Survivors betrayed by the system
At the start of the year, the Home Office put in place new and tough criteria for survivors of modern slavery, requiring police or medical reports to prove they were victims of modern slavery.
Major Kathy Betteridge, director of anti-trafficking and modern slavery for The Salvation Army, said:
“The Salvation Army works with many people escaping modern slavery who have come forward without possessions or documentation because they have fled to safety in fear of their lives. Any documents they may have had are often confiscated or destroyed by the person exploiting them.”
In previous years around 90% of suspected victims of modern slavery received an initial positive decision. Between April and June of 2023, only 48% received a positive finding despite the criteria being softened due to a successful legal challenge earlier this year. This has led to thousands being unfairly denied support and left vulnerable to being re-trafficked. It is clear that the system that was created to support survivors is failing them.
For some survivors, it is already too late
This year, 3,318 people have received a negative finding on their case. Human Trafficking Foundation points to the case of a man trafficked to the UK as a child and criminally exploited. He received a referral for investigating his modern slavery case by the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), but the same day he was rejected. The next morning, he was put on a plane back to his country of origin. The Home Office justifies the rejections by claiming migrants are “gaming the system” and that many claims are “bogus.” However, many charities cry foul.
Rebecca Stevenson, from the charity Christian Action Research and Education, said:
“It is unlikely that there are many spurious claims as an individual cannot self-refer into the NRM. A referral is made by a first responder who needs to have evidence of potential trafficking. The potential for spurious claims being successful under the NRM is low given the system’s design.”
Despite a U.N. warning that claims of fraud were being “exaggerated” by the government and watchdog groups finding no evidence of fraud, the government continues to claim modern slavery laws are being abused and paint migrants as criminals exploiting the system.
Freedom United stands with these charities that are speaking up for survivors and working diligently to highlight the myth of migrants “gaming the system.” We urgently call on the U.K. and governments around the world to stop using anti-trafficking rhetoric to promote support for harmful immigration policies that instead increase trafficking risks and undermine trafficking victims’ rights. If you agree that a lack of safe migration routes combined with punitive immigration policies are contributing to increasing vulnerabilities to modern slavery for people on the move, sign our petition.