Modern slavery

The scope of the groundbreaking UK Modern Slavery Bill, the first legislation of its kind in Europe, was discussed by Robbie Kent, head of the Home Office Modern Slavery Unit, and a panel of experts.

An estimated 29 million people are living in some form of bondage or forced servitude in 167 countries worldwide, including Britain, Tatiana Jardan of the Modern Slavery Foundation told consuls.

The trade in human misery generates $150bn annually for organised crime, making it the second most lucrative criminal activity in the world after the drugs trade.

Slavery in the UK
The UK government estimates that there are up to 13,000 victims of modern slavery trapped in the UK, according to a recent scientific report compiled by the Chief Scientific Advisor. On the narrow definition of human trafficking, the UK Human Trafficking Centre identified 2744 potential victims of human trafficking, from 112 countries in 2014 and this figure is rising year on year.

Modern Slavery Bill
Having undergone wide consultation in parliament and with stakeholder groups, the new Modern Slavery Bill is victim-centred and aims to equip law enforcers with better tools to tackle the crime, Robbie Kent, head of the Modern Slavery Unit at the Home Office told consular welfare officers.

By focusing on supporting rather than criminalising victims, law enforcers will be able to gather more evidence to prosecute the perpetrators.

Kent outlined some of the landmark measures of the Bill, which include:

Higher sentences – a new category of modern slavery offences (such as forced prostitution, exploitation, child abuse) could attract much higher sentences, including life sentences in the most serious cases

Reparation orders for victims – seizing the proceeds from perpetrators to offer compensation

Slavery and Trafficking risk and prevention orders – to restrict the activity of individuals who have been convicted of modern slavery offence

Child Trafficking Advocates – these will assist vulnerable child victims to access care services they require from local authorities so that they don’t relapse back into slavery

New Statutory Defence – for Victims who may have been compelled to commit criminal activity

The introduction of an independent UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner – a senior figure who will ensure continuity and cooperation between agencies involved in stamping out modern slavery. Kevin Hyland, the former head of the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking Unit, has been appointed the UK’s first Anti-Slavery Commissioner designate while the Bill achieves Royal Assent

Special measures extended to all victims of slavery and trafficking

Transparency in supply chains – the UK is the first country to make it a legal duty for companies to publish details of checks they have made to ensure there is no exploitation in their supply chain, whether in the UK or internationally

The Home Office is already trialling some of the key features of the Modern Slavery Bill, including:

  • Child advocates to give child trafficking victims more tailored support
  • Establishing specialist multi-agency safeguarding and anti-trafficking teams at the border
  • Consultations with businesses to discuss ways to curb modern slavery in supply chains
  • Modern Slavery Strategy – This sets out co-ordinated action across government departments, agencies and law enforcement in the UK and internationally to tackle slavery, in addition to the legislative measures being introduced through the Modern Slavery Bill
  • The Modern Slavery Strategy also includes an international dimension and the Foreign Office will coordinating with posts abroad to implement measures to stop modern slavery in countries of origin

Statistical analysis
Natalie Wallbank, a strategic analyst at the UK Human Trafficking Centre, gave a statistical overview of scale and geographic spread of modern slavery in the UK. Victims came from 112 countries, the top ten being:

  • Romania – 307 (11%)
  • Poland – 239 (9%)
  • United Kingdom – 193 (7%)
  • Albania – 192 (7%)
  • Nigeria – 158 (6%)
  • Slovakia – 143 (5%)
  • Vietnam – 138 (5%)
  • Hungary – 136 (5%)
  • Lithuania – 104 (4%)
  • Thailand – 89 (3%)

Modern Slavery offences are increasing – the number of referrals of potential victims of modern slavery in 2013 were up 47% on 2012. The trafficking of children is on the increase as well.

National Referral Mechanism
Wallbank explained the current National Referral Mechanism, which was introduced in 2009 to combat human trafficking in accordance with the EU Convention Against Human Trafficking.

It has two competent authorities – the UK Human Trafficking Centre for UK and EU nationals with a legal right to be in the UK; and UK Visas and Immigration, for non-EU potential victims who may have issues relating to immigration or asylum.

In April 2014, the Home Secretary commissioned a review of the NRM, which consulted a wide range of organisations from the police, local authorities and charities. The Review’s starting point was the victim and their experiences and made recommendations on six areas:

  • identification of victims
  • how they access support
  • the level of support that victims receive
  • decision making
  • governance of the NRM
  • collection and sharing of data

The review found that there was a great need for awareness raising among both the public and the authorities.

There was also a need to professionalise the First Responder Role in the current NRM, replacing it with Slavery Safeguarding Leads. These would be professionals who are trained to identify the signs of modern slavery, gather evidence and interact with potential victims.

Role of consulates
Embassy welfare officers drew attention to their roles at a diplomatic mission in offering consular assistance, and that they would be well placed to identify potential victims of modern slavery.

Owing to their welfare role, consuls pointed out that awareness raising about modern slavery among the consular community and further training would be useful.

Consuls said they could assist the UK authorities by liaising with law enforcement authorities in the home country, help track down relatives of victims and provide of travel documents for victims who have had their passports withheld by the traffickers.

They therefore appealed for better communication between law enforcement authorities and agencies and consulates.

Embassy abuses
In discussions it was pointed out that there have been incidents where diplomatic missions themselves have been implicated in the exploitation of diplomatic servants.

Currently an embassy or diplomat is immune from prosecution. However, a landmark case going through the courts will rule on whether servants are entitled to sue their missions for mistreatment.

Foreign Office Minister Baroness Anelay (right) and Minister for Modern Slavery and Organised Crime Karen Bradley discuss issues on Modern Slavery

Tatiana Jardan of the Human Trafficking Foundation introduces panel of experts who discussed the new approach to tackling Modern Slavery

Useful contacts

Human Trafficking Foundation
Tel: 01923 810100

Gangmasters Licensing Authority
Tel: 0345 602 5020

Tel 0844 778 2406