As a charity which supports hundreds of victims of modern slavery every year, we are gravely concerned at Parliament’s approval of the Illegal Migration Bill this week.
We are disappointed that the Government remained steadfast in refusing to amend parts of the bill which, when enacted, will deny support and protection to thousands of victims of modern slavery. The bill says that if victims have arrived here illegally, they will be liable to detention and deportation unless they are cooperating with a criminal investigation or prosecution and are required to remain in the UK.
This provision puts the lives of victims at risk as their deportation could mean driving them back into the arms of ruthless criminals from whom they have fled. We can think of many victims we have supported who, by virtue of the fact they were trafficked, can be classified as having entered the UK illegally. Many of them would be absolutely terrified at the prospect of being returned to their home country and having to face the criminals who exploited and trafficked them.
Many of them would refuse to testify against their traffickers out of fear for themselves and their family. Under the bill, any victim of modern slavery who comes to the UK illegally, as most do, will automatically have their asylum claim declared inadmissible. This bill closes the door on many people who have been trafficked, abused and exploited and have approached us for refuge and protection.
We understand the urgent need to address the issue of small boats crossing the Channel. However punishing modern slavery victims, many of whom are genuine trafficking victims according to Government statistics, will not solve this problem. We believe that treating modern slavery victims as illegal immigrants and refusing recommendations to make exceptions for them in this bill were wrong and the UK now stands in violation of our international obligations.
Medaille Trust will continue to do as much as we can with our partners to support the thousands of victims of modern slavery who will seek refuge and protection from us despite the wrong and counter-productive provisions of this bill.