The U.K. Statistics Regulator has released a statement announcing that they have not found evidence to support the Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s claims that people are abusing the U.K.’s modern slavery laws and “gaming the system”.
Dangerous and unsubstantiated rhetoric
Damaging rhetoric from the U.K. government has contributed to an environment that casts doubt on the veracity of modern slavery survivors’ claims with the intent to justify increasingly restrictive immigration legislation and the rollback of protections for survivors.
But official data doesn’t support the claims made by the government that people are abusing the system.
In a letter to Home Office officials on Thursday, the Office for Statistics Regulation said it had requested “specific evidence” for her claims but none was provided.
Ed Humpherson, the director general for regulation, said that although the number of modern slavery victims referred to by the Home Office had increased rapidly, the rise “may reflect changes in awareness”.
“The proportion of referrals deemed by the Home Office to be genuine cases of modern slavery in its ‘conclusive grounds decisions’ has risen year by year from 58 per cent in 2016 to 91 per cent in 2021, which does not suggest in itself that gaming is a growing problem,” his letter added.
Dame Sara Thornton, the former U.K. Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, also wrote to the former Home Secretary Priti Patel asking for evidence to back up alleged manipulation claims but she never received an answer.
Dame Sara Thornton said: “I do not think the evidence, as I understand it, supports the rhetoric, and the concern is that the rhetoric is severely undermining the Modern Slavery Act protections.”
U.K. intent on rolling back support
Just this week, the U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak singled out Albanian nationals in disturbing plans to apply a higher bar to migrants arriving through irregular means, including those who say they are trafficking survivors, whilst claiming to provide a safe haven for the most vulnerable.
A two tier approach based on means of entry, further marginalizes those most vulnerable and goes against the international principle of the right to seek safety through whatever means are available.
The most effective way to reduce vulnerability to exploitation, protect survivors of human trafficking and stop dangerous crossings is to provide safe and legal routes. Survivors need time to disclose information about their experiences and seek advice. Fast-tracked removals of people seeking asylum risk trafficking victims being completely overlooked and sent back to conditions of exploitation and abuse.
Furthermore, raising the threshold of proof for survivors of modern slavery will inevitably lead to survivors being overlooked and instead face detention, deportation and re-trafficking.
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