Nationality and Borders Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Modern Slavery Survivor Collective (NBB63)

We are writing in response to a call for evidence for The Public Bill Committee on Nationality and Borders Bill with particular focus on Part 4 which relates to Modern Slavery. We (Modern Slavery Survivors’ Collective) are a group of survivors with lived experience of Modern Slavery that have expertise and knowledge of the challenges faced by victims both within the UK and Internationally.

We have listed our concerns for each section as follows:

Section 46 (1) - 46 (6) ‘slavery or trafficking information notice’ …

Our concern here is that a victim of trafficking is quite often unaware that they have actually been trafficked and it can take many years to make sense of what happened. Trafficking itself is a most abhorrent crime, often it is incorporated with rape, extreme violence, torture and many other forms of abuse. To many bystanders it can be confusing to understand why a victim simply doesn’t just leave or why a victim appears to be protecting the perpetrators. However, it wasn’t so long ago that the same train of thought was being applied to victims of domestic abuse, yet today we have a better understanding of grooming, mental health, dependency, stockholm syndrome and trauma etc. We know from data that people trapped in abusive situations take many many years, not only to be able to acknowledge that they were a victim, but also to come to terms and make sense of what happened. So why are we now in a situation where we are expecting victims of trafficking to be able to self identify and provide intel on immediate request? The victim may have been in the midst of their abuse, confused, feeling trapped, brainwashed by their exploiter and yet with no mental health support (counselling is disapproved or restricted pre-trial) this wouldn’t be expected or asked of a domestic abuse victim so to expect it from a victim of trafficking is totally absurd. One of the purposes of the Nationality and Borders Bill is to prevent and reduce abuse of our support systems. Introducing a ‘slavery or trafficking information notice’ will in fact have the complete opposite effect. Genuine victims, suffering with trauma, take many years to self identify and come to terms with what happened to them. For many victims trafficking is something that happens to foreign people, trafficking is something that happens in movies, trafficking is something that doesn’t happen in the western world and trafficking is often confused with historical representations of the transatlantic slave trade. There are many Brits today, particularly over the age of 40, exploited as a child, that are completely unaware that they were victims of human trafficking for those very reasons.

Survivor Quote:  'My Traffickers told me to plead guilty, it meant a lesser sentence for me but also meant no attention would be given to them. I thought trafficking only happened in films and only happened to people overseas. I was a naive 20yr old when I escaped, but left with a horrifying criminal record which resulted in limiting my career options and thus chained me to poverty and mental health battles. I was so ashamed that I kept my past a secret...25 years later, I came to learn that trafficking was very much real and very much hidden in the UK and that's when I realised I had been a victim'

Section 49 (2) Reducing the recovery period to 30 days … .

This was only recently increased to 45days which in itself is still not enough, it can take many victims years to achieve a Conclusive Decision so it makes absolutely no sense that this is reduced to 30 days, it takes 30 days just to receive a Subject Access Request for the victims files, so how can any support be limited to those 30 days?

Section 50 No entitlement to additional recovery period… .

This would rule out victims that were trafficked by different means that only had one area addressed or supported at the point of being identified as a victim. This is quite common in regards to CSE and CCE where there is a clear gender divide in both identification and support. Quite often CSE and CCE go hand in hand. However, females are often supported as victims of CSE and are often provided with less support for the CCE element, and likewise, with males the CCE element becomes the main focus for support. Many men will not come forward to disclose that they were also sexually exploited until they feel safe to do so, and this may be once they have dealt with the criminal exploitation first. Also, in regards to CCE and CSE, quite often support services are limited to providing support for either category and the victim may need to be referred to another service provider for specialist support at a later date.

Section 53 Leave to remain… .

(3) The evidence a survivor holds is paramount when it comes to the prosecution of their trafficker. Where there is a premature removal of a survivor it can wound an outcome in trial. That removal may result in the survivor choosing to detach themselves from the crucial role and voice they play in their case. The security and rapport breaks down at that removal.

The fear of being deported results in the breakdown of trust with authorities and the fear of saying the wrong thing will end up criminalizing themselves. The mental and emotional impact this has on a survivor doesn't bode confidence for resolutions that work for all parties involved. 

For some survivors the reality of returning to their home countries may in fact result in further harm and exploitation. It is beyond Britain's ability to provide further security to a survivor once they have left the country. 

Survivor quote: ‘ I lived with the fear of being deported before being able to help see a prosecution through…’

4th November 2021


Prepared 4th November 2021