Joint statement regarding changes to the detention of vulnerable people, made without Parliamentary scrutiny, which specialist organizations predict will result in more trafficking victims being held behind bars. Signed by 20 organizations including After Exploitation, Equality Now, and Women for Refugee Women.
We are deeply concerned by imminent changes to detention policy – due to become law on 25 May – which will increase the number of modern slavery survivors locked up due to their immigration status. The changes to vulnerability criteria, laid before Parliament without debate, will remove safeguards for people recognised as ‘potential victims of trafficking’.
In practice, even survivors recognised by the Home Office as being entitled to trafficking support may still be held behind bars.
These changes will be catastrophic for victims who face increased risk of suicidal ideation, psychological and physical health deterioration if detained. It is unthinkable that survivors, already coming to terms with severe trauma and deprivation of liberty at the hands of their traffickers, are already failed for a second time under Home Office policy. Since 2019 alone, 2,914 potential victims were locked up for ‘immigration offences’ often related to their trafficking.
Now, if implemented, changes to detention guidance will be made to the detriment of survivors’ recovery. We must unequivocally challenge moves to weaken safeguards which should be urgently strengthened.
In a Committee response, the Home Office has acknowledged that more survivors could be detained under the changes. Now, MPs were only given #30DaystoAct before the Statutory Instrument comes into force. We urge MPs to support the fatal Early Day motion, tabled by Sir Keir Starmer, which would trigger a debate on the issue and introduce the possibility of annulling the change altogether by 22 April.
Seeking asylum is not a crime, and being trafficked makes you the victim of one.
As organisations researching and supporting those affected, we are deeply concerned that both of these distinct but overlapping groups of highly vulnerable individuals will bear the brunt of anti-migrant policies already being enacted by Government behind closed doors.
Anti Slavery International,
Bail for Immigration Detainees,
Focus on Labour Exploitation,
Freedom From Torture,
Govan Community Project,
Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association,
Jesuit Refugee Service,
Migrants’ Rights Network,
Scottish Detainee Visitors,
Women For Refugee Women