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Top News Hostility for Survivors, Impunity for Traffickers: How the hostile environment enables modern slavery

Hostility for Survivors, Impunity for Traffickers: How the hostile environment enables modern slavery

Drawing from Hope for Justice’s frontline experience, a new briefing paper “Hostility for Survivors, Impunity for Traffickers: how the hostile environment enables modern slavery” has been developed.

This paper explores the impact of recent legislative and policy changes on survivors of modern slavery under the UK Government’s policy of creating a hostile environment for migrants. It was developed to equip parliamentarians and policy-makers with insights as to the impact of hostile legislation and policies upon survivors of modern slavery and offer an alternative approach which will better protect survivors and prevent further exploitation.

“We are seen as immigrants first, a problematic immigrant and then a human last

Quote from a survivor of modern slavery

The hostile environment has failed survivors of modern slavery and will continue to do so. The erosion of rights for those seeking refuge in the UK has heightened vulnerability to exploitation and hindered the ability of law enforcement to disrupt trafficking networks and prosecute those responsible. This briefing report explores the recent legislative impacts and gives our recommendations to resolve them, also summarised below.


Hope for Justice recommends the following steps be taken to mitigate the risk of further harm and reduce vulnerability to modern slavery:

  • Directly incorporate the European Convention on Action against Trafficking (ECAT) into domestic law.
  • Strengthen the rights of those vulnerable to exploitation, including asylum seekers and migrant workers.
  • Enable secure reporting: survivors must feel safe to report exploitation and abuse, regardless of their immigration status.
  • Provide the right to work: allowing those seeking refuge in the UK and survivors of modern slavery to access legitimate employment would significantly reduce vulnerability.
  • Create safe and legal routes for those seeking refuge in the UK and safer routes for economic migrants.
  • Pilot a Trafficking Visa: provide survivors with regularised status and a pathway to permanent residence in the UK based on their holistic individual circumstances and best interests.
  • End the hostile environment: reaffirm the UK’s commitment to adhering to its obligations under international law to safeguard the rights of vulnerable individuals and communities.
  • Deconflate modern slavery and immigration policies:
    • Remove modern slavery from the portfolio of the Minister for Illegal Migration.
    • Develop a multi-departmental response to tackling modern slavery; ensuring that responsibility for survivor support sits within an appropriate governance structure focused on safeguarding and care.
    • Create a comprehensive, evidence-based and overarching strategy on immigration which is aligned with efforts to tackle modern slavery.

For more information, please contact Euan Fraser, Senior Policy and Research Advisor:

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