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The Illegal Migration Bill: a backwards step for tackling modern slavery


The Illegal Migration Bill: a backwards step for tackling modern slavery

This week, Parliament is discussing the next stage of the Illegal Migration Bill. But what is the Bill and what does it have to do with slavery and trafficking?


he government has announced new legislation aimed at preventing illegal immigration to the UK.

But the Bill will allow for the government to remove people from the UK, even when the Home Office has confirmed that they have been trafficked.

What does the Bill mean for survivors of trafficking?

The Bill makes it harder for survivors to receive support and justice. This is a significant backwards step in the UK’s attempts to tackle modern slavery.

IJM UK is calling for the modern slavery clauses to be removed from the Bill. Supporting survivors needs to be at the heart of our response to slavery, regardless of how they come to be in the UK.

Here are our two main concerns with the Illegal Migration Bill:

1. It will be harder to identify and support survivors of trafficking

Traffickers often use fear or violence to control people – threatening that they will be prosecuted or deported if they go to the police.

This legislation makes the traffickers’ threats real. Survivors will become more afraid of approaching authorities for help.

From our work, we’ve seen the importance of giving survivors ongoing specialist care to recover from trauma.

But the Bill limits a survivor’s access to vital support and safe accommodation, making it much harder for them to overcome trauma.

IJM recently supported a woman called Antonia*, who was tricked and trafficked from Romania to London for sexual exploitation.

After months of brutal abuse, Antonia managed to call her family who alerted authorities.

The Metropolitan Police brought Antonia to safety, and IJM helped provide vital aftercare to help her recover. With our support, Antonia testified at court – resulting in the conviction of the traffickers.

But imagine if Antonia had instead been deported when authorities learned of her situation. She may not have received the support or justice she deserved.

This is the risk posed by the Bill.

2. It will be harder to prosecute traffickers

Survivors hold evidence which is crucial for convicting traffickers. But working with police and prosecutors can be extremely daunting, particularly for people who have experienced brutal abuse.

Survivors may even have been coached by traffickers on what to say to hide the signs of exploitation.

We’ve seen what’s possible when survivors are supported to give evidence and testify. Supported by people like you, we’ve helped obtain 21 convictions of traffickers in the UK in just over three years.

If Antonia had been deported, her abusers could have walked free - able to brutally exploit more people.

Under the proposed legislation, traffickers will be protected rather than people who have been trafficked.

Human trafficking is not the same as people smuggling

Our concerns are a result of conflating human trafficking with people smuggling.

According to the Home Office’s own guidance, these are separate issues. But in recent months the two have been talked about interchangeably.

People smuggling is when people pay to illegally cross a border, whereas human trafficking is when people are deceived or forced to enter another country for the purpose of exploitation.

The lines between these two may become blurry, but they are distinct and should be treated as such.

If we want to effectively stop trafficking into the UK, we must ensure that survivors of trafficking are supported and traffickers are held to account for their crimes.

Add your voice to call out the issues with the Bill. Share this blog on social media or with your MP.


Stock image: Pexels, Andrew Harvard

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