Concern for victims as Illegal Migration Bill becomes law
published on 18 Jul 2023
Major Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army said:
“The Salvation Army is extremely disappointed and concerned that the Illegal Migration Bill has passed through Parliament and will become law. In particular, by making no concessions to recognise the vulnerability of people caught in modern slavery, this Act will prevent genuine victims from seeking the support they need and are entitled to in international law.
“We share the Government’s view that inhumane use of small boats by criminal gangs must be urgently addressed to prevent further loss of life. However, by having provisions about modern slavery in a bill designed to tackle illegal migration, we are punishing people who have been tricked, trapped and traded into modern slavery. We fear the Illegal Migration Act will do nothing to break the cycles of exploitation that trap countless people. It will instead punish those who need support to rebuild their lives free from modern slavery.
“This new law sends a dangerous message that if you explain your situation to the authorities and ask for support you will be detained and removed from the UK. This strengthens the grip traffickers already have on their victims as we know they use fear of the authorities as a way to maintain control.
“There was very limited consultation with survivors of modern slavery and experts in the sector during this legislative process in order to develop effective and reasonable measures which recognise the vulnerable nature of many people who will be affected by this Bill. This was highlighted in a letter survivors of modern slavery asked us to pass to the Prime Minister. They wrote:
“Most of us have been taken away from traffickers in a horrendous situation, traumatised, fragile, wounded, without any money, documentation and hungry…We had an opportunity to recover from the trauma we went through only because of the support we received in different ways… We were put in a safe place where we saw humanity for the first time after a very long time.
“This Bill stops the survivors from receiving support and will make Britain a place where perpetrators of human trafficking and modern slavery can thrive, and victims of trafficking become invisible …Traffickers use the threat of detention and deportation to stop their victims from coming forward and engaging with the authorities.”
Major Kathy Betteridge continues: “We are saddened by the passing of this law but encouraged that people from across the UK have come together to stand with survivors of modern slavery and amplify our call to protect their rights. It is vital these efforts do not end with the passing of the Illegal Migration Bill.
“The Salvation Army’s work with survivors of modern slavery continues. We are still here offering shelter, space and support to recover from their ordeal. We are going to continue to tell their stories, advocate for their rights and show them love.”