Slavery survivors at heart of response to New Plan for Immigration
published on 14 May 2021
The Salvation Army has been working to support victims of modern slavery for nearly ten years. Thanks to the Victim Care Contract and the incredible support of our donors, we have helped thousands of traumatised people break free from often violent criminals.
During that time increasing numbers of modern slavery survivors have been allocated support through the Government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM).
We are proud to be working towards the Government’s aim to eradicate modern slavery but also to support survivors to build new lives. The Government’s New Plan for Immigration (the Plan) is an opportunity to build on this work and we are pleased that it offers further commitment from the Government to improve support for survivors of modern slavery. However, there are elements in the Plan that could undermine progress made so far. We have used our experience to make detailed recommendations that we believe would be more effective and helpful for survivors of slavery.
For example, many of the vulnerable people The Salvation Army and our partners support have first-hand experience of the current immigration system and are also seeking asylum because of serious risks to their safety in their home country. However, the current draft of the Plan outlines reforms that would make it more difficult for survivors of slavery to access the support available to them through the NRM to help them regain their independence and rebuild their lives. While the changes are proposed to avoid exploitation of the system, we are concerned this would allow genuine survivors to fall back into the hands of their abusers.
Moreover, we need to rethink how we collect crucial information from people coming to us for help. It takes time, skill and resources to unpack the history of someone who could well have been imprisoned, raped, beaten and forced into drug use. The Salvation Army recommends investing in the current system to ensure that possible victims are properly supported to provide their story and evidence of abuse, as a more efficient way of ensuring those who need it get our help. Proper evidence gathering means people get tailored help, but it also helps prosecute people traffickers. Stopping the crime at the source is the best way to protect people.
The current system is stretched and elements of it are not working as well as they could be. We believe that improving the current system would be more effective but, most importantly, genuinely raise the level of support we are able to offer survivors.
Our consultation response has identified key pressure points that need investment but could really bring the Government closer to its aim of eradicating modern slavery forever.