Our response to publication of the Illegal Migration Bill
published on 7 Mar 2023
Kathy Betteridge, Director of Anti Trafficking and Modern Slavery for The Salvation Army said:
“The Salvation Army is extremely concerned that the Illegal Migration Bill, published today, will have an unintended but nevertheless devastating impact on victims of modern slavery.
Although we have yet to review in full the detail of the bill, we are concerned it will damage the UK’s world leading approach to tackling modern slavery and helping the people whose lives it devastates.
“Illegal immigration is a weapon used to exploit people for profit and it’s essential that the Government tackle the inhumane use of small boats by criminal gangs. We may never know the true number of those who have perished at sea.
“However automatically detaining and then removing people as they arrive will deliver vulnerable people back into the hands of the criminal gangs who have exploited them. This does nothing to break the cycle of exploitation or help victims break free. Rather, it feeds the criminal networks who profit from the lives of vulnerable people. It is essential that genuine victims of modern slavery aren’t refused the right to seek our help.
“We have yet to see evidence to show that the modern slavery system is being widely exploited. This system must not be collateral damage in the Government’s efforts to tackle illegal immigration.
“We are therefore concerned that this bill undermines the fundamental principles of our support systems where, regardless of background, if someone has been exploited, they are entitled to support.
“This bill will also require survivors of modern slavery who entered the UK illegally to cooperate with the criminal justice system or be removed. This will not help the majority of survivors whose cases don’t progress to court and fails to recognise that these vulnerable people, often recovering from hideous abuse, need time and to feel safe and supported before they are able to help the police and legal systems prosecute their perpetrators.
“We welcome the Government’s concern around speeding up the decision making on modern slavery cases. Through our network of modern slavery safe houses and support workers we see how waiting a long time for these decisions can hinder a survivor’s ability to recover and rebuild their life.
"However, we urge the Government to focus on proper resourcing of the decision-making processes and training of first responders. These are the people who are responsible for identifying and providing government decision-makers with the information they need to make good decisions. In this way genuine victims will feel confident to come forward for support.
“We have serious concerns that, without major amendments, this Bill will have the unintended consequence of undermining the rights of survivors of modern slavery and make it harder for genuine victims to access support through the existing systems. Indeed we risk closing the door on genuine victims and undermining progress made in bringing trafficking networks to justice.
“We are reviewing the detail of the Bill before making a full response. The Salvation Army will continue to speak out alongside survivors, our partners and other specialists to make sure there is investment in the right measures to guarantee that survivors can get the support they are entitled to.”