New legislation which could change the operation of the Modern Slavery Act is being mooted by the Home Office under new Home Secretary Suella Braverman.
Speaking to The Sun on the 1st October, Ms Braverman stated that one of the ‘variety of reasons’ why there has been a crisis of asylum seekers who cross the Channel to the UK is because the Modern Slavery Act is being ‘abused’. Braverman stated ‘unfortunately, it’s a really low bar that you have to cross to be considered to be a victim of modern slavery, that is what is gumming up the system at the moment.’
This comes as the Home Office has removed responsibility from the minister for safeguarding, and reclassified it as an ‘illegal immigration and asylum issue’ under immigration minister Tom Pursglove.
The Modern Slavery Act (MSA) was introduced by former Prime Minister Theresa May in 2015. The Act aimed to ‘consolidate existing offences of human trafficking and slavery and encompass trafficking for all forms of exploitation’. The Act also set out a range of measures for how human trafficking and modern slavery should be dealt with within the UK.
Originally described as ‘globally leading’ legislation, it is now claimed that reports suggest that there is an increase of people filing illegitimate trafficking and modern slavery claims. Former Home Secretary Priti Patel and Suella Braverman have since indicated they believe modern slavery legislation to be too lenient.
Ms Braverman’s comments have also been reflected by Chris Philp, formerly a Home Office Minister, and now a senior minister in the Treasury. On 16th August, Philp claimed that ‘thousands’ of ‘bogus’ claims are being made by individuals to avoid deportation or obtain an immigration status. Individuals cannot file a claim themselves but must be referred.
In 2021, the National Referral Mechanism (the legal framework through which victims of trafficking are identified and offered support) received 13,000 referrals. 91 per cent of conclusive grounds decisions in 2021 (which decides whether they are formally recognised as a victim of trafficking) were positive.
A Home Office spokesman told the Guardian: ‘We are committed to tackling the heinous crime of modern slavery and in the UK we have a world-leading response. However, it is clear people are abusing our system when they have no right to be here, in order to frustrate their removal.’
The Government is yet to confirm whether it will reform Modern Slavery Legislation as it currently operates.