As the U.K. government continues to oppose the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, new data reveals that, over a period of 21 months, immigration authorities have detained thousands of potential trafficking victims.
NGOs After Exploitation and Women for Refugee Women obtained this data from the U.K. Home Office. The data shows that between January 2019 and September 2020, 4,102 people who had been detained by immigration authorities were recognized as having trafficking indicators.
These individuals were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the system through which victims of human trafficking are identified, many only after already spending time in detention.
The Independent reports the NRM has found that 2,914 detainees have “positive reasonable grounds” to be victims of trafficking. Their cases must now be more thoroughly investigated. Confirmed trafficking victims have numbered 194 so far.
Freedom United and others signed a letter to the U.K. government in October 2020 calling for better immigration protections for all survivors of modern slavery.
We were disappointed to receive a response last month indicating that the government’s priorities continue to be focused on reaching immigration targets rather than supporting the recovery of modern slavery survivors.
Director of After Exploitation, Maya Esslemont, said:
The government routinely acknowledges the physical, financial and interpersonal devastation caused by modern slavery, but will not act despite evidence that victims are being treated like criminals as a result of their immigration status.
Ensuring all survivors of modern slavery and trafficking, regardless of immigration status, are able to access guaranteed statutory support for a minimum of 12 months is a crucial component to their recovery.
However, the U.K.’s Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, who opposes the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, has said that the government will not support the “absolute exclusion from detention for any particular group.”
Freedom United launched the campaign urging the U.K. to guarantee support for all modern slavery survivors in January 2018 which has since gathered over 81,000 signatures. Victims of modern slavery need greater protection and support not, as Esslemont told the Independent, “re-traumatizing[sic]” by being treated like criminals.
Stand with survivors by joining the campaign and add your name today.