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Report from Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill published today

8 April 2014

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. Estimates of the scale of the problem are difficult to gauge, but likely fall into the thousands every year.

The report by the Joint Committee on the Draft Modern Slavery Bill was published today. In their report, the Committee presented its own version of the Modern Slavery Bill and recommended the creation of six offences: slavery of children and adults, child exploitation, exploitation, child trafficking, trafficking, and facilitating the commission of an offence of modern slavery.

The AIRE Centre welcomes the Committee’s recommendation for the National Referral Mechanism (‘NRM’) to be placed on statutory footing with a right to internal review against negative decisions, and for UK Visas and Immigration to be removed from the decision making process.

We were also pleased to see the recommended changes to the appointment of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner in order to ensure some degree of independence and the proposal to introduce a statutory defence for victims who are compelled to commit crimes in the course of their trafficking experience.

In the evidence provided to the Joint Committee earlier this year, the AIRE Centre called for:

  •        A wider definition of the 'means' required to establish trafficking;
  •        Exploitation to include exploitation for the purposes of begging or forced                criminality;
  •        A clear obligation on authorities to identify victims;
  •        The National Referral Mechanism ("NRM"), or an equivalent, to be set down           in statute
  •        The NRM to be independent from other authorities, particularly the immigration service
  •        A right to review or appeal a negative decision on identification;

 We also called for protection provisions for victims to include:

  •        A recovery and reflection period
  •        Medical, financial, housing, psychological and legal assistance
  •        A guardian for child victims to be appointed to ensure appropriate support              and access to education is provided
  •        Residence permit
  •        Legal aid
  •        Compensation
  •        Non-criminalisation
  •        Risk assessment on return of the rights, safety and dignity of the victim     

The AIRE Centre agrees with the Committee that in order to properly address the issue of modern slavery and lead the world in combating this heinous crime, the Bill must not only focus on prosecution but must ensure adequate protection for the victims.

Although the Committee’s suggestions go some way towards restoring the balance in favour of the protection of victims, which the AIRE Centre welcomes, this remains an issue which requires further attention in order to both fully reflect the UK's obligations under European law and ensure that victims rights can be effectively safeguarded through, for example, the provision of comprehensive legal aid. 

Read the Committee's Report

Read the AIRE Centre's full written evidence to the Committee and our Additional Observations

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