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02 May 2016

Exit from the European Union likely to have negative impact on fighting slavery, believes Anti-Slavery International

Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation, has expressed concerns over the impact of the UK’s potential exit from the European Union on the efforts to combat modern slavery in Britain and abroad.

In the statement released to its members and supporters, the organisation’s trustees urged them to consider probable implications of Britain’s exit from the EU on the anti-slavery policy and practice before taking decision on the vote.

They said: “After careful consideration of the implications of the potential outcomes of the EU referendum on Anti-Slavery International’s charitable purpose, Anti-Slavery International’s trustees are of the opinion that UK exit from the European Union is likely to have significant negative consequences on the effort to combat slavery and trafficking within the whole of Europe and further afield.

“Specifically we believe UK exit from the EU would increase the risks for victims of trafficking within Europe, reduce the capacity of law enforcement to cooperate to combat trafficking, and reduce the capacity of the UK to influence wider European law and policy against slavery.

“Anti-Slavery International is the oldest international human rights organisation in the world, founded in 1839 to obtain a world free from slavery.

“Given this, we have taken the decision to advise members, supporters and all others concerned with the issues of human trafficking and slavery that it is our opinion based on our analysis of the evidence that the charitable purpose of Anti-Slavery International is best served within the continued UK membership of the European Union.”

The organisation also released a briefing in which it analyses the possible impact of Britain’s exit from the EU.

Amongst the main concerns it lists the protection of victims whose immigration status might change post-exit, and the protection of potential British victims trafficked abroad.

“The exit […] could place a whole new category of trafficking victims into a precarious position if the right of to reside in the UK is removed from citizens of other European countries”, the briefing says.

The briefing also examines the potential implications of the exit from the European-wide criminal justice institutions, such as Europol and Eurojust, and reminds members and supporters that these have been “essential for the UK’s ability to counter trafficking.”

The third element of potential negative impact of Britain’s EU exit is the loss of influence on European policy and practice by Britain, as well as loss of Britain’s accountability to European legal framework, which previously brought positive anti-slavery developments in the UK.

Read the briefing in full: EU referendum paper (233.53KB).

Note to editors: For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Anti-Slavery International’s Press and Digital Media Manager Jakub Sobik on 0207 501 8934, mobile 07789 936 383 or email