WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
July 23 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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UK failing to keep its promises to protect victims of modern slavery

UK failing to keep its promises to protect victims of modern slavery

Anti-Slavery International has suggested that the UK government is ‘going back on its pledges’ to combat modern slavery and human trafficking.

This comes before today’s United Nation’s universal periodic review (UPR), an assessment of the human rights landscape in every UN member state which takes place every five years. The UPR started on Monday 7 November, with the UK scheduled to be scrutinised today. With the passing of the Modern Slavery Act, the UK was commended as a leader in the field during the last review. As Anti-Slavery International puts it, now, ‘the context looks very different’.

The charity’s biggest concern is that modern slavery has been ‘reclassified’ by the government as an immigration issue, causing issues for the identification and protection of victims.

Last month, the Home Office removed the modern slavery from the safeguarding minister’s official responsibilities, and placed it within the immigration minister’s ‘illegal immigration and asylum’ brief. The home secretary also has attributed rises in migrant numbers to people ‘gaming the system’ by submitting false trafficking claims, although provided no evidence to support this.

So far this year, around nine out of ten claims of modern slavery or trafficking were confirmed as genuine, however Anti-Slavery International states that the conflation of modern slavery claims with abuse of the system may leave many too scared to apply.

Practical changes include a heightened threshold for consideration of claims; applicants with any criminal conviction carrying over a 12-month sentence can be barred from the referral system. This ignores the significant category of criminal exploitation (forced criminality) in modern slavery experiences, which the government has ordinarily previously recognised.

Jasmine O’Connor, Chief Executive of Anti-Slavery International expressed that ‘the government needs to listen honestly to survivors and safeguard them from future abuse, not use them as pawns in a game of hostile rhetoric.’

Earlier this year, UN human rights special rapporteurs voiced serious concerns over the UK’s current observance of their international modern slavery and trafficking obligations, stating:

‘The Government’s repeated public statements on combating trafficking and modern slavery must be matched by concrete action to ensure equal protection of the law for all victims of trafficking and modern slavery, without discrimination.’

The government substantively assesses neither its trafficking referral system nor its survivor support system in its report submitted to the UN ahead of today’s review.

As put by O’Connor: ‘As the UN UPR shines a spotlight on the UK, we urge the government to truly listen to the recommendations presented in the [UPR] and commit to providing meaningful improvements to uphold human rights.’

 

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