​Ask your MP for urgent changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill

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woman trafficking victim on park bench

More than 100 leaders in the human rights and anti-slavery sector have written to MPs asking for urgent changes to the new Nationality and Borders Bill currently making its way through Parliament.

The Bill could mean more victims of modern slavery going unidentified, including British victims and children, making it harder to prosecute traffickers.  

To make this message even louder, we need your help.

 

Take urgent action today
  1. Please email your MP asking for urgent amendments to the Bill in its current form. You can find your MP at: https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP
  2. Choose from either the template letter below – copy and paste it into an email. Or use the template to compose your own letter.
  3. Remember to include your name and contact details: if your MP receives a personal letter from a genuine constituent, they are more likely to take notice.

 

Letter template to send to your MP

Dear [insert MP name]

I am writing as a concerned constituent from [insert address with postcode].

You will soon be asked to vote again on the Nationality and Borders Bill, and I ask that you consider the inadvertent but serious harm this Bill is likely to cause to the fight against slavery.

Unless we significantly increase prosecution rates, slavery will remain a low risk/high reward crime for traffickers, and the costs to this country of modern slavery will continue to rise.

Key to securing more convictions is victims’ testimony and engagement with the police. Yet, this Bill will likely make it more difficult to identify victims and hinder their access to support, so their vital evidence will be lost. It misses the opportunity to enable more victims to engage with prosecutions.  

It is my view that modern slavery and immigration are distinct matters and that the clauses within Part 5 of the Bill would be better being removed from the Bill and more carefully considered in the current review of the Modern Slavery Strategy. I fear this section will not achieve its aims in its current form. 

If Part 5 is not removed from the Bill, I would ask you to support the anti-slavery sector’s proposed amendments to Part 5 in order to mitigate against these very real risks and ensure this Bill is fairer to victims and firmer on criminals.

My specific concerns are as follows:

 

British victims of modern slavery will be harmed by this Bill

This Bill’s purpose is to address immigration and asylum concerns in the UK, but modern slavery is an issue of serious and organised crime, not primarily immigration. 

The changes to the modern slavery system will affect all victims, including British nationals. While some victims of modern slavery might be from overseas and be part of the asylum system, a significant number are from the UK: in 2020, 34% of all victims of modern slavery identified in the UK were British.

 

A time limit on reporting could mean thousands of victims not being identified

Experts in policing, the courts and the anti-slavery sector agree that this Bill will make it harder for victims of slavery, including British victims, to be identified and supported.

One of the main reasons is that it puts pressure on victims to identify themselves within a limited timeframe, without considering the impact that trauma may have on the victim’s ability to disclose their experiences. 

This has echoes of the mistakes we made around historic rape cases: victims could feel if they have missed the timeframe that there is no point in coming forward. It means fewer victims will be identified and helped, and more criminals free to exploit the most vulnerable in our area.

 

Victims who are forced to commit crimes, including child victims of County Lines, could receive no help and remain trapped in exploitation

The Bill will also disqualify from support any victim of modern slavery who is considered to be a “threat to public order”, using a broad definition that fails to take account of the fact that many victims will be forced to commit crime as part of their exploitation (including victims of County Lines drugs gangs), or that victims can be targeted for exploitation because they have criminal convictions.

I fear this will send a message to traffickers that they are free to exploit people with criminal records (including for crimes committed under duress) as they will no longer qualify for help.

Experts agree that it is likely that the fewer people we identify as victims of modern slavery, the fewer traffickers will be caught and ultimately convicted. Despite the Bill’s stated intentions to be “firm but fair”, it is unfair to victims of slavery while making it easier for the perpetrators to get away with their crimes.

That is why I am asking you to (1) support the removal of Part 5 from the Bill and, if Part 5 is not removed, (2) support the anti-slavery sector’s amendments to Part 5. 

I, like you, want to eradicate modern slavery from our area. But to do so requires us to provide support, not barriers, to victims so that we see more traffickers behind bars.

Yours sincerely

[Insert name and address]

 

 

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Justine Currell

As I came to understand more about the issue, including through a visit to an Unseen safehouse, I knew I needed to do more to stop this abuse and exploitation.

For the last five years of my Civil Service career, I was the Modern Slavery Senior Policy Advisor in the Home Office and led on development of the Modern Slavery Act, including the transparency in supply chains provision and business guidance.

I joined Unseen to lead the development of the Modern Slavery & Exploitation Helpline, and Unseen’s work with businesses. I am regularly called upon to present at national and international conferences and use my experience of working with Ministers to influence other governments internationally to take action to address modern slavery and, in particular, business supply chain issues.

In my spare time I enjoy keeping fit, music, reading and travelling.

Andrew Wallis

What ultimately compelled me to act was a report on how people from Eastern Europe were being trafficked through Bristol airport to the USA. Kate Garbers, who went on to be an Unseen Director, and I wrote to all the city councillors, MPs and the Police Chief Constable challenging them on the issue. The challenge came back to us: this city needs safe housing for trafficked women. And so Unseen began.

But we never wanted Unseen to be just about safe housing. We wanted to end slavery once and for all, and that remains our driving focus.

I chaired the working group for the Centre for Social Justice’s landmark report “It Happens Here: Equipping the United Kingdom to Fight Modern Slavery”. This is now acknowledged as the catalyst behind the UK’s Modern Slavery Act of 2015. It was a great honour to be awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours that year. On the other hand, I’ve also been described as “the loveliest disrupter you could ever hope to meet”.

This job has taken me from building flat-pack furniture for safehouses, to working with businesses to address slavery in supply chains, to delivering training, raising awareness and advising governments around the world.

When not at work, I enjoy travelling, spending time with my dog Harley, cooking, supporting Liverpool and Yorkshire CC, music (I’m a former DJ) and endurance events such as the Three Peaks Challenge and Tribe Freedom Runs – which I vow never to do again. Until the next time.