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Top News Anti-trafficking sector joint briefing on the Illegal Migration Bill, July 2023

Anti-trafficking sector joint briefing on the Illegal Migration Bill, July 2023

Hope for Justice is one of 34 anti-trafficking organisations that have signed a joint briefing in support of the international compliance amendment to the Illegal Migration Bill, calling on Parliament to protect survivors, prevent trafficking & uphold international law. This acts as a powerful statement of the importance of cross-sector campaigning.

The Illegal Migration Bill comes with multiple dangers.

It will deny thousands of survivors access to National Referral Mechanism (NRM) protections. The NRM helps to identify and refer survivors of human trafficking to the appropriate sources i.e. legal services, counselling support, housing support, etc. Under Clause 2 of the Illegal Migration Bill, if a survivor entered the UK through irregular routes, even if they were made to through the use of force, fraud or threat and the abuse of their vulnerability, they would no longer qualify for support or protection, and instead be met with risk of detention, removal, or uncertainty.

This discourages survivors to seek help as they know they will not be supported if they do, meaning many will stay silent and remain in exploitation. Others who do manage to escape their traffickers will be forced underground, avoiding contact with authorities or institutions that might have previously been able to help support them, and instead may become homeless and be at risk of re-exploitation.

The Illegal Migration Bill empowers traffickers to continue to exploit people, as their threats align with the reality, that victims will be denied support and potentially face deportation. It armours and strengthens the power traffickers have when exploiting victims. While the Bill outlines to further harm to survivors, it does not include the measures to improve the prosecution and conviction of traffickers or outline how survivors gain access to justice.

The UK’s record on holding traffickers to account for their crimes and securing justice and remedy for survivors has been substandard to date. In 2020, only 89 defendants were prosecuted under the Modern Slavery Act on a ‘principal offence’ basis, with just 10 convictions that year. This in comparison to the estimated 122,000 people living in modern slavery in the UK (1.8 people per thousand), is shocking. The Illegal Migration Bill unfortunately will further exacerbate this issue.

The Illegal Migration Bill will make the UK breach the European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, among other international conventions, outlined below.

Amendment 5 would ensure compliance with the UK’s international obligations, including on trafficking and modern slavery, which is essential to protect the sanctity of Article 4 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) and the entitlements from the European Convention for Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (ECAT), which both act as fundamental protections against trafficking and modern slavery and to provide support for survivors.

Read more about how compliance with international obligations is a fundamental requirement of any state seeking to uphold the rule of law here.

This is why, as organisations working to end trafficking and modern slavery, we unite to urge Parliamentarians to support Lords Amendment 5 on compliance with international obligations.

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