Wide coalition of organisations to march and hand in a petition supported by 60,000 to protect victims of modern slavery in the UK
On Thursday 14 March, a wide coalition of organisations from the Free for Good campaign including Anti-Slavery International, Freedom United, the Co-op, Global Citizen, CARE (Christian Action Research and Education) joined by the members of Survivor Alliance will deliver a petition asking the UK Government to back the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill.
Over 60,000 actions were taken by members of the public to support the Bill, ranging from petitioning the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary, to emailing and sending social media messages to their MPs.
Campaigners will start their action by handing a petition to the Home Office and then march through London to hand in the petition at Number 10.
The Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, sponsored by Lord McColl of Dulwich and Iain Duncan Smith MP, would guarantee that all confirmed victims of slavery in England and Wales would receive comprehensive support including accommodation, counselling, healthcare a support worker and legal advice for at least 12 months after the authorities grant them victim status, instead of the current 45 days.
It would also guarantee their immigration status for the first 12 months to ensure the victims can focus on recovering and rebuilding their lives free from worrying about the threat of deportation, often back to countries which wouldn’t guarantee their protection from their traffickers.
Currently, the Government only guarantees 45 days of support for the potential victims whilst their cases are reviewed by the Home Office to decide whether they are deemed to have been a victim of slavery and a further 45 days after that decision is made for those confirmed as victims.
This 45 day period of support after the decision about a victims status (called the ‘move on period’) is a recent increase on the 14 days that was previously offer, however, this is simply not sufficient to establish a stable and secure future, nor will it bridge the gap to other support such as discretionary leave to remain, as these applications take longer to process.
Victims are likely still to end up without a roof over their heads or money to pay for their basic needs, unable to work legally, with no-one to help them to re-build their lives and at risk of re-trafficking as a result.
The proposed drop-in centres have yet to be established and in any case they will be limited to those victims who have the right to remain in the UK and are unlikely to be able to offer victims the sort of proactive advocacy and accompanying support that they often need as they try to engage with a range of different services and agencies.
Edith*, a survivor of slavery, said:
“It’s so important to me to be here today handing in so many messages to the Home Office and No.10. I want the government to understand that we’re not just numbers and statistics, we’re simply asking for the opportunity to recover from the traumatic experience of being trafficked.”
*name changed to protect identity
Anna Sereni from Anti-Slavery International said:
“The UK Government has done a lot to tackle modern slavery in recent years, but unfortunately the focus on supporting the victims of this heinous crime has been missing. As a result, survivors get caught up in a system that is ineffective at best, and all too often outright hostile to them.
“It is crucial that we provide the victims can come forward safe in the knowledge that they will be protected rather than neglected and left at the mercy of their traffickers.”
Joanna Ewart-James from Freedom United said:
“We’re joining survivors of modern slavery, who under the current system are left struggling to recover. Together with tens of thousands of messages of solidarity from Freedom United supporters and others, we are asking why the government’s pledge to tackle slavery isn’t backed up with the care needed for survivors to recover?”
Paul Gerrard, Campaigns & Public Affairs Director at the Co-op said:
“Despite the progress made by businesses and charities to help victim support, elements of the government’s flagship Modern Slavery Act need strengthening, if we are going to achieve lasting change.
“It’s clear that survivors of modern slavery need a more realistic amount of time to receive support from which they can sustainably rebuild their lives. If the government does not take note of this, there is a real chance that these victims could fall back into the hands of those who have exploited them and for the terrible, unspeakable cycle of enslavement to begin again.”
Louise Gleich from CARE said:
“Providing victims with adequate support is not just the right thing to do for their recovery, it is also essential if we are to bring traffickers to justice and prevent them exploiting others in the future. Without protection, support and stability victims cannot give evidence to police and courts meaning traffickers go free and the cycle of exploitation continues.”
Lord McColl of Dulwich said:
“I very much welcome the support for my Bill shown by so many people in these petitions. Victims of modern slavery really need at least 12 months of support and stability in order to recover from the awful exploitation they have been through. These petitions show that the public agrees – now is the time for the Government to act by supporting the Bill.”
Rt. Hon. Iain Duncan Smith MP said:
“Our current laws don’t go far enough to protect victims of slavery once rescued, leaving them very vulnerable to re-trafficking. I believe we should have a system that offers victims a period – as Lord McColl and my proposed bill says – of about 12 months to remain here and be supported. The petitions being handed in today and the thousands of other actions taken by the general public in support of the Bill show that the British public want to put right this terrible injustice facing victims of slavery here in the UK. The Prime Minister has led the way in tackling modern slavery, I hope she will take the lead once more.”
Notes to editors:
Campaigners will hand in their petition to the Home Office on Thursday 14 March at 1pm. There will be an opportunity to take photographs and carry out interviews outside the Home Office. The protesters will leave the Home Office around 2pm and march through London to Downing Street, where they will hand in the petition to Number 10 at 3pm.
The breakdown of actions taken:
- Anti-Slavery International, 11,519 signatures under petition asking the Home Secretary Sajid Javid to back the Bill (these will be handed over to the Home Office)
- Freedom United, 27,212 signatures under petition asking the Prime Minister Theresa May to back the Bill (these will be handed over to Number 10)
- Global Citizen and Co-op, joint action: 9,996 emails sent to MPs, 5,536 tweets sent to MPs, 4,036 emails sent to Theresa May and Sajid Javid, 869 tweets sent to Theresa May and Sajid Javid (GC to decide if they want to include hand these details over to no 10)
- Free For Good campaign : 5073 emails sent to MPs.
The Free for Good campaign is supported by 25 anti-slavery organisations and businesses and calls on parliament to pass the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill, a private members Bill brought forward by Lord McColl of Dulwich. The Bill give victims leave to remain and specialist support for 12 months beyond the National Referral Mechanism. The campaign is supported by CARE, Snowdrop Project, Human Trafficking Foundation, Hope for Justice, AFRUCA, Anti-Slavery International, KALAYAAN, Arise Foundation, Ashiana Sheffield, Freedom United, Co-op, Jericho Foundation, Northern College, You Can Free Us, The Sophie Hayes Foundation, IJM UK, Caritas, NAWO, Tribe Foundation ,RAMFEL, The Adavu Project, Odanadi, The British Retail Consortium, ECPAT UK (Every Child Against Trafficking), Ella’s Home.
Last September a letter from the campaign urging the Prime Minister to adopt the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill was published by the Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/sep/07/support-the-bill-to-help-victims-of-modern-slavery
In November 60 MPs, Peers and prominent figures signed a letter to the Times calling on the Government to support the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/future-of-british-relations-with-the-uae-tcwwd673n
For more information and to arrange interviews please contact:
Jakub Sobik, Communications Manager at Anti-Slavery International, email firstname.lastname@example.org and 07789 936 383.