Causeway response to call for change to modern slavery laws

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This week, there have been media reports that 50 Conservative MPs have written to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak urging for changes to be made to the UK’s modern slavery laws. The calls come in response to an increase in migrants arriving from Albania, that some people believe are using modern slavery laws to fast-track, or make their asylum claims easier.

The MPs who signed the letter believe a ‘simple’ solution would be to tell people arriving from ‘safe’ countries that they cannot apply for asylum here, and should be returned to their home countries immediately.

Whilst we acknowledge the need for border control, as a charity that specialises in modern slavery support, we reject the rhetoric that has sprung up around the abuse of the system by opportunistic economic migrants.

Claiming to be a victim of modern slavery in the UK is not a simple or easy process, as much as some MPs or news outlets would like to say otherwise.

It is not a free-for-all where anyone can present themselves for support claiming to be a victim. And even if someone is given survivor status, it does not infer any special status that would allow them to claim asylum, or receive automatic leave-to-remain, or make their case any stronger than anyone else’s. Just saying you are a victim of trafficking is never enough to get support, and it is never automatic. There are many stages that a survivor must go through.

Victims must be referred into a Government support system known as the NRM (National Referral Mechanism) by a first responder, usually someone from a frontline service such as police or social services. If there is enough probable evidence that they are a victim, they are given a Positive Reasonable Grounds Decision, and supported, while more evidence is gathered to confirm their status as a modern slavery survivor.

Only once more robust evidence has been gathered and submitted to the Home Office, will the person be given a Positive Conclusive Grounds Decision, which means they are eligible for more long-term support. People are only given support by the UK Government if the UK Government deem them to be victims.

Claims that Albanian migrants are using the law to abuse the asylum system is to confuse two issues. Modern slavery support and asylum seeking are not the same thing. Many people who receive modern slavery support in the UK do not go on to apply for asylum, and for those that do, their status as a modern slavery survivor has little or no impact on their asylum claim.

We believe that using the arrival of one set of people as an excuse to change a whole set of laws, is an overreaction, and will open the door to the watering down of all current protections for survivors of modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation.

Causeway CEO Ed Newton, said: “Whilst the MPs who are calling for more to be done say there is a ‘simple’ solution to the ‘crisis’, we believe there are never ‘simple’ changes to the law where marginalised and vulnerable people’s lives are concerned. ‘Simple’ changes to the law could see victims sent back to their abusers and re-trafficked, or could leave others without the support they need.

Changes to the law as a knee-jerk response to Albanian migration, could see decades of damage done to future victims.

Changes to the law should be thought through, not rushed through.”



Kyle France, Causeway’s South Yorkshire Modern Slavery Accommodation Manager, said: “Causeway have looked after many Albanian men in our safe houses, and over the last year I have personally helped support 10 men from Albania.  

There is a common misrepresentation that Albanian males are criminals, prone to violence, misogynistic and laddish. Honestly, I can say that in my experience, this is extremely far from the truth.

We had one male in our safe house recently who was forced into selling drugs for his trafficker. He came to us very scared. He had been treated horrifically and was only 21.  He quickly settled in and became a really pleasant member of our household. He volunteered at a local foodbank, attended the local church, and went to English classes. He eventually found a job in the UK and moved into his own flat.

The implication that Albania is a safe country is very far removed from what the people we look after tell us.”