modern slavery

Government rejects Rwanda Bill amendments that would protect modern slavery survivors

Houses Of Parliament

For more than a year, various Bills aimed at reducing the number of migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees coming into the UK, have been going through Parliament.

The rhetoric around the need to reduce ‘illegal immigrants’ has been overwhelmingly negative, and caught up in this have been victims of human trafficking and modern slavery.

Survivors of exploitation in the UK, including those who are in the country legally, as well as those who have been forced or coerced into arriving illegally, overstaying their visa, or who fled here to claim sanctuary, have been frequently conflated with ‘small boats’ arrivals, people smuggling, or cynically accused of playing the UK’s immigration system.

As a result, the laws and support systems in place to protect survivors of exploitation have been whittled away at to the point many victims now fear arrest and detention if they come forward.

Where previously support was offered to a survivor even if they were forced to enter the country illegally, or were forced to commit a crime as part of their exploitation, this is no longer the case, and people who have faced modern slavery abuses, now also face the prospect of being removed to Rwanda.

Due to opponents of the scheme’s concerns around the protection of Human Rights for people being sent to Rwanda, the Government introduced The Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill.

On March 13th, amendments to the Bill were introduced by the House of Lords which included protections against removal of survivors of modern slavery, as well as restoring the ability of the courts to consider the safety of Rwanda on an individual basis. This would mean that each person subject to removal, has their personal circumstances considered, and that removal could be challenged in court.

The Lords introduced this amendment in response to concerns across the sector (including those raised by Causeway) that there is currently no guarantee that survivors removed to Rwanda would receive the specialist support they’re entitled to.

On 18th March, the House of Commons debated the amendments, and despite overwhelming support from the opposition parties, the Conservative Government rejected them all outright.

Whilst we are pleased that many MPs and members of the House of Lords supported amendments to the Rwanda Bill that would add protections for modern slavery survivors, we are disappointed the government rejected them all. Causeway, and other UK-based modern slavery services are experts in providing specialist support for survivors, and we see the benefits this can have on their recovery journeys. We hope that adjustments can still be made that would enable all survivors to access this support, regardless of their background.