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PRESS RELEASE: Modern Slavery Bill

16 December 2013

Every year an estimated 2.4 million people are trafficked globally. It is the world’s second most profitable crime.

In the UK trafficking remains a largely hidden crime with few victims coming to the attention of authorities. Last year officials state they found just over 2,000 victims in the UK, but experts believe the real numbers to be much higher.

A Modern Slavery Bill is being drawn up to address the problem in the UK. Whilst the Bill is a start, the proposed legislation is currently too narrowly drawn and risks being a missed opportunity, especially on the key issues of better victim support and protection.

The AIRE Centre agrees with statements from the vulnerable women’s charity Eaves, which identifies one of the key problems being the allocation of responsibility for formally identifying the victims.

Victims with a European nationality are identified by the UK Human Trafficking Centre based in the National Crime Agency; but those from outside the EU are formally identified by the UK Immigration and Visa service (UKVI). This creates a possible conflict of interest as UKVI is tasked with safeguarding the UK’s borders, which could make them more sceptical in accepting a person is a victim of trafficking.

This potential for a conflict of interest is also why the AIRE Centre believes any proposed Anti-Slavery Commissioner should be politically independent and have the authority to hold officials to account.

The AIRE Centre also calls for the Bill to adequately address the requirements within Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the prohibition of slavery; the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and Council Directive 2011/36/EU and generally reflect the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

As ECtHR jurisprudence makes clear, the UK, like all Member States, has a positive obligation to protect victims of trafficking (Rantsev v Cyprus and Russia). Under Article 4 it is not enough simply to have legislation and administrative provisions in place, if these cannot be effectively accessed.

Any UK domestic remedy must be 'effective' in practice as well as in law; in particular their exercise must not be unjustifiably hindered by acts or omissions of the particular State (Aksoy v Turkey).

Both the Trafficking Convention and Directive also require Member States to take the necessary measures to ensure that assistance and support are provided to victims, before, during and for an appropriate period of time after the conclusion of criminal proceedings (Article 10 of the Trafficking Convention and Article 11 of the Directive).

The Modern Slavery Bill should do this by;

  • Making sure victims are identified and treated in the same way, regardless of where they come from;
  • Ensuring that victims are not prosecuted or detained as a result of crimes their traffickers forced them to commit;  
  • Providing compulsory assistance to trafficked persons, including access to appropriate and secure accommodation, emergency medical assistance, counselling, translation and interpretation services and information on legal rights and assistance;
  • Enabling access for redress including compensation to trafficked victims;
  • Considering the granting of internal protection to victims;
  • Repatriating 'foreign victims' only where a risk assessment of the consequences of returning has deemed it safe;  
  • Ensuring that criminal investigations are not dependent on reporting and accusations from the victim, nor their agreement to act as a witness 

 

Find out more about what the AIRE Centre is doing on the issue of human trafficking

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