Nationality and Borders Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham (NBB57)

Nationality and Borders Bill Part 4 Modern Slavery

Written evidence s ubmitted on behalf of the Rights Lab, University of Nottingham in addition to Nationality and Borders Bill Part 4: Modern Slavery Consideration Paper

Introduction

 

1. The Rights Lab is the world’s largest and leading group of modern slavery researchers. Through our five main research programmes, on Data, Communities, Law, Ecosystems, and Business, we deliver new and cutting-edge research that provides rigorous data, evidence and discoveries for the anti-slavery effort. Our team leads for stakeholder impact and engagement work across all five programmes to translate research findings for key stakeholders, deliver policy analysis, briefings and training, work with partners on filling key evidence gaps, and offer expertise on monitoring and evaluation. Our Involving Survivors of Slavery in Policy and Intervention Research project, run in partnership with Survivor Alliance, elevates survivor-informed research as a key part of knowledge production to help end slavery and support survivors to achieve full freedom. It works across our five research programmes to ensure that our research is survivor-informed and works globally with survivor-scholars to develop and deliver survivor-informed and survivor-led research.

Executive Summary

 

2. What the Government is seeking to achieve in relation to offering protection to those who need it-including survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking-is positive. However, our research suggests that the Nationality and Borders Bill will have the opposite effect, causing damage to the people it is intended to protect and undermining the Government’s own policy objectives.

3. As outlined in the Rights Lab submission to the Government s New Plan for Immigration , [1] the Government’s decision to view modern slavery via an immigration lens is cause for concern. Evidence shows that modern slavery and immigration should not be conflated, as this undermines the objectives of antislavery policy. The Nationality and Borders Bill does just this.

4. The Government has stated that to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking, the legislative changes presented in the Bill are necessary. However, evidence suggests that the proposals and the associated Clauses in the Bill would hinder rather than help the Government to meet the commitments it has made to tackle modern slavery. [2]   Our view is underpinned by the evidence laid out clause-by-clause in the Nationality and Borders Bill Part 4: Modern Slavery Consideration paper.

5. In addition to the consideration paper prepared by the Rights Lab [3]   and having read submissions from other anti-slavery organisations, we wish to raise the following points in this submission as additional areas of concern:

· Lack of data to support Government claims

· The NRM and the Bill

· Lack of incorporation of Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (ECAT) into the Bill

· Disapplication of the EU Trafficking Directive

Lack of data to support claims

 

6. The Government is working from the premise that the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) system is being misused. [4] While the Government aims to minimise misuse of the NRM system, they have yet to provide evidence of this misuse.

7. Tom Pursglove MP’s commitment to write to the committee with more detail pertaining to the scale of the problem of misuse and to provide evidence of this was positive (Committee Meeting 29.10.2021). However, such evidence has not yet been provided and significant gaps in official evidence remain.

8. Evidence presented in the Rights Lab consideration paper indicates that there is not currently significant abuse of the NRM. [5] Only a small proportion of potential victims referred into the NRM are not positively identified as victims of modern slavery. Further, evidence shows that only a small proportion of potential victims in fact receive support from the NRM (25%)-suggesting that the system is currently under-inclusive.

The NRM and the Bill

 

9. The NRM assists the UK in meeting obligations under ECAT Article 10 (Protection of Victims). It is a system designed to identify and support potential victims to access support and justice. It is a system that is intended to encourage victims to come forward, so that they can be protected.

10. The NRM, while not directly referenced in the Bill (except in relation to Clauses 54 & 55) is a process that is relevant to all the Clauses proposed in Part 4 of the Bill and will be the mechanism through which support is accessed and delivered to identified victims. We have outlined below the Clauses that directly relate to and rely on the NRM to be administered and enacted effectively. This highlights the importance of understanding where and how misuse of the system is occurring.

Clauses 46 & 47: relate to slavery and trafficking information notices, those in the NRM will require support to understand and comply with these notices.

Clause 48: relates to the identification of victims who are then able to access and enter the NRM and receive support.

Clause 49: relates to the recovery period and how long a potential victim will be allowed to access support, via the NRM.

Clause 50: outlines additional recovery periods and how these will be enabled or not. Delivery of support and any additional recovery would be provided via the NRM.

Clause 51: outlines the circumstances upon which victims may be disqualified from receiving support provided via the NRM and modern slavery victim care contract (MSVCC).

Clause 52: references the provision and support for those identified as victims, which will be provided via the NRM and MSVCC.

Clause 53: outlines how victims access leave to remain, once conclusively identified as a victim, via the NRM.

Clauses 54 and 55: relate to the NRM and directly reference this system in relation to victims accessing legal aid.

Clause 56: proposes to disapply the EU Trafficking Directive and therefore will impact the support victims can access via the NRM.

11. The NRM and the processes involved in victim care and victim entitlements are outlined in Statutory Guidance, not in legislation. Throughout the Bill Committee, the Government has referred to updating this guidance to ensure we meet our obligations in relation to victim care and assistance.

12. As the NRM and support process appear to be linked to most of the Clauses proposed in Part 4, it would have been beneficial to have released updated Statutory Guidance alongside the Bill. Without such, assessment of compliance with obligations is difficult and the implications of some aspects of implementation of the Bill ambiguous.

Recommendations:

 

13. The NRM process is involved at some level in all the Clauses in Part 4 of the Nationality and Borders Bill, as outlined above. If the rationale for changes proposed under these Clauses is premised on the assertion that the NRM is being misused, then data must be provided to corroborate this claim.

14. Clarity needs to be given as to how all the Clauses will be enacted in relation to the NRM and the MSVCC. The practical implementation of the Clauses in relation to the organisations involved within the NRM process must also be considered. While it is understood this will be dealt with predominantly in guidance, timeframes and consultation processes to incorporate the changes outlined in the Bill need to be clearly outlined.

15. The Government sharing data will help all involved in this process to better understand where the issues in the NRM system are being identified and help those involved in the delivery of the NRM-from first responders identifying potential victims, to support providers and Single
Competent Authority decision makers.

16. Training will need to be given, not just to first responders and decision makers, but also those working within the MSVCC upon enactment of the Bill, specifically in relation to Clauses that alter identification and support mechanisms.

17. Draft updated Statutory Guidance should be developed in conjunction with the sector, devolved governments and other, relevant government departments.

Lack of incorporation of ECAT into the Bill

 

18. The Government states that the UK is compliant with ECAT. [6] However, the Nationality and Borders Bill does not propose to fully incorporate ECAT in either the Modern Slavery Act 2015 or the proposed Nationality and Borders Act.

19. This raises concern specifically in relation to the support and assistance victims can expect to access. ECAT Article 12 clearly sets out obligations in relation to victim assistance. The Committee of the Parties on the implementation of ECAT recommended that all aspects of ECAT should be placed on statutory footing by parties. [7]

20. The Government has always maintained it meets its ECAT obligations via the NRM, statutory guidance, and policy and has decided not to enshrine these obligations in law. The assistance required by ECAT is not currently outlined in legislation. Although the UK Government indicated that such matters would be addressed in regulations under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, [8] no regulations have been issued.

21. Existing support to which potential victims are entitled are outlined in Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for England and Wales (under s49 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015) and Non-Statutory Guidance for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

22. The Nationality and Borders Bill as proposed does not place victim support entitlements on statutory footing.

23. The amendment proposed by the Bill Committee to include a list defining the support and assistance that must be provided to victims of modern slavery in England and Wales in line with Article 12 of ECAT would help to address this gap in the existing legislative framework implementing ECAT. [9]

24. Elements of ECAT are referred to throughout the Bill. However, as these are to be incorporated via guidance, it is currently unclear whether all aspects of ECAT will be adequately implemented into domestic law.

25. The proposed amendment would address this uncertainty and ensure compliance with the UK’s international obligations under Article 12 of ECAT.

Recommendations:

 

26. ECAT needs to be incorporated into domestic legislation. At minimum, Article 12 of ECAT-which outlines the support and assistance afforded to victims-should be enshrined into primary legislation (the Modern Slavery Act 2015).

27. The Government should provide evidence of how they are meeting all the obligations under ECAT in relation to victim support prior to enactment of the Bill. If this is not possible, an evidence and impact review addressing each ECAT clause enshrined and its effectiveness should be conducted 12 months after enactment.

Disapplication of the EU Trafficking Directive (Clause 56)

 

28. The disapplication of the Trafficking Directive becomes even more pertinent should victim support (as per the Bill Committees proposed amendment) not be enshrined into primary legislation.

29. Research suggests that disapplication of EU law derived from the Trafficking Directive will have a negative impact on victims, specifically in relation to the UK’s ability to identify, protect and support victims effectively and their ability to access wider remedies, including access to criminal justice processes. [10]

30. To date, no consideration has been given to the impacts of the disapplication of the Directive in the Government’s impact assessments on the Bill.

31. Many of the provisions in the Directive mirror those in ECAT. While ECAT offers sufficient provision and protection for victims, these protections are not currently enshrined in domestic law-ECAT is not incorporated and does not have direct effect. In contrast, the Trafficking Directive has direct effect and victims can currently rely on rights derived directly from the Directive.

32. The Trafficking Directive also expands the definition of exploitation to expressly include "criminal activities" (important in relation to the number of cases of criminal exploitation being identified in the UK context) and strengthens the protection provisions including around treatment of victims in the criminal justice system.

Recommendations:

 

33. An assessment needs to be conducted for Clause 56 so that it is clear which Clauses within the Bill would cease to apply, which are considered incompatible with the Directive, and a rationale for this.

34. In addition to this assessment, a governmental review should be conducted to understand the impact on the identification, protection, support, and access to wider remedies of victims of all forms of slavery with the disapplication of the Directive.

35. Independent legal opinion should be sought in relation to how the disapplication of Clause 56 relates to the EU Withdrawal Agreement 2018 as the Directive has been already applied in cases in the UK.

November 2021


[1] K Garbers et al, ‘UK Government’s New Plan for Immigration’ (The Rights Lab, May 2021), available at https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/beacons-of-excellence/rights-lab/resources/reports-and-briefings/2021/may/response-to-the-new-plan-for-immigration.pdf

[2] K Garbers et al, ‘Nationality and Borders Bill Part 4: Modern Slavery – Consideration Paper’ (The Rights Lab, October 2021), available at https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/research/beacons-of-excellence/rights-lab/resources/reports-and-briefings/2021/october/consideration-paper-nationality-and-borders-bill.pdf

[3] Ibid.

[4] See for instance HM Government, ‘New Plan for Immigration: Policy Statement’ (March 2021), available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/972517/CCS207_CCS0820091708-001_Sovereign_Borders_Web_Accessible.pdf, pp 31-32.

[5] K Garbers et al, above n 2, pp 22-24.

[6] For instance Chris Whittaker in Committee Session on the 2nd November 2021 and the HM Government, ‘New Plan for Immigration: Policy Statement’ (March 2021), available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/972517/CCS207_CCS0820091708-001_Sovereign_Borders_Web_Accessible.pdf, pp. 32.

[7] GRETA, ‘Report concerning the implementation of ECAT, First Evaluation Round, Executive Summary’ (2012) Available at: https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168063d26d

[8] Committee of the Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. (2015). Report submitted by the British authorities on measures taken to comply with Committee of the Parties Recommendation CP (2012)10 on the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. Available at: https://rm.coe.int/CoERMPublicCommonSearchServices/DisplayDCTMContent?documentId=090000168063d270

[9] House of Commons Nationality and Borders Bill Amendments Paper (November 2021) available at https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/58-02/0141/amend/natbord_rm_pbc_1101.pdf, pp.3.

[10] K Garbers et al, above n 2, pp 59-62.

 

Prepared 4th November 2021