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"We hope the new Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary will step up in tackling modern slavery at home and globally, and return the UK to a leadership role on this critical issue. We stand by, ready to work with them to do this."

Anti-Slavery International

Two years ago, the solar industry’s reliance on Uyghur forced labour came to light highlighting the devastating human suffering involved. Concerningly, we now see that many solar companies remain at an exceptionally high risk of using Uyghur forced labour.  Governments globally must introduce import bans, while also introducing financial measures to support the diversification of sourcing. Urgent action must be taken, so that the transition to green energy is just and not complicit in Uyghur forced labour.”  

 

Chloe Cranston, Head of Thematic Advocacy Programmes at Anti-Slavery International.   

"We are devastated to see the ‘Illegal Migration’ Bill pass. Since it was announced, we have been calling on the Government to halt this cruel and unworkable Bill, which is dangerous for victims and hands new tools for exploitation to traffickers. We are outraged that successive Governments, over the last two years, have pushed through laws and policies that directly roll back support for victims of modern slavery, including through the Nationality and Borders Act and the unlawful Rwanda policy. Today we stand in solidarity with everyone who will be impacted by this Bill, and the current and future victims of trafficking who will now be barred from support. We will continue to challenge these policies. The passing of this Bill is a rallying cry to us all. We must fight for a system that can support victims and survivors, that is founded in compassion, and managed with competence.”

Jamie Fookes, UK and Europe Advocacy Manager at Anti-Slavery International

On the release of the Cotton Campaign's report on the 2022 Turkmenistan Harvest

“The Turkmen people should be able to live their lives without being forced to leave their jobs and work in dangerous conditions in the cotton fields. This form of slavery has no place in the modern world. On the back of recent findings from Turkmen.News and Turkmen Initiative for Human Rights (TIHR), we need the Turkmen Government to step up and display the required political will to enact meaningful reforms. Urgent action is also needed from those interacting with the Turkmen Government – including governments, businesses and the ILO – to make sure that long-overdue change is made.”

Cara Priestley, International Advocacy Officer at Anti-Slavery International

On the EU Legal Affairs Committee passing the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive:

“People in the EU and around the world are being exploited in modern slavery to make products purchased in the EU. This landmark legislation will be an important step to put people and the planet before profit. We are pleased to see remediation fleshed out and consideration given for responsible disengagement, both aspects called for by workers. However, this directive has the potential to be even stronger and protect more people. The directive should be expanded to cover Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, use of products and burden of proof must be shifted to businesses rather than victims.”

On the impact EU legislation will have in the UK:

“People in the UK, EU and around the world are being exploited in modern slavery to deliver products and services for British people. The EU is getting closer to landmark due diligence legislation which will compel companies to put people and the planet before profit. The UK must not be left behind and the UK Government should introduce similar legislation, a Business, Human Rights and Environment Act, that addresses the exploitation of people in value chains.”

Sian Lea, Business and Human Rights Manager at Anti-Slavery International

“The proposed Illegal Migration Bill is yet another distraction that will not only put asylum seekers at greater risk of harm but will further fail victims of trafficking. The government has allowed dangerous backlogs to flourish while rolling back support for victims. While the modern slavery and asylum systems are struggling, this Bill is not the answer that we need. Rather than scapegoating migrants and asylum seekers with inflammatory rhetoric and an unworkable law, we need proper systems and management, heightened protections for victims, and adequate support for case workers.”

James Fookes, UK and Europe Advocacy Manager at Anti-Slavery International

“The EU has the potential to develop world-leading laws on forced labour, that would protect millions of people around the world from harm. However, the two proposals currently fall short of this, failing to take workers’ needs into account. This week we have brought partners from all around the world, to the heart of the EU, to make sure that EU policymakers hear the perspectives of those most impacted by forced labour. We truly hope they will listen, and improve these crucial laws.”

Sian Lea, Business and Human Rights Manager at Anti-Slavery International

"Words cannot comprehend our sadness upon hearing of the tragedy in the English Channel this morning. Our thoughts are with the families of those who were seeking sanctuary on our shores, who deserve to be able to do so with safety and dignity.

"In a week sandwiched by Human Rights Day and International Migrants Day, we are witnessing a Government systematically withholding rights of vulnerable people and dismantling the systems of support for modern slavery victims. Amid freezing temperatures that have swept the country, tragically, today people have died off our coast.

"We have seen rhetoric lead to real harm. If we demonise our neighbours and deny safe migration routes, we will continue to see disaster and tragedy as we are seeing Not only does this dangerous rhetoric undermine the safety of victims of trafficking, but the lack of safe routes leaves the door wide open for traffickers, meaning more people will be at risk of exploitation. It is necessary to fight the hostility that is putting vulnerable people in more harmful, often deadly, situations.

"As a country, as humans, it's time to look in the mirror. We must do better than this."

Jasmine O'Connor OBE, CEO at Anti-Slavery International

Modern slavery is a human rights abuse and no human is illegal. Victims of modern slavery have already had their fundamental freedoms taken, but now our modern slavery system has come under attack, firstly by consecutive Home Secretaries, and now by the Prime Minister in Parliament. We cannot underestimate how dangerous and ill-advised today’s announcement from the Prime Minister was. 

Modern Slavery can happen to anyone, and our leaders have a duty to prioritise the identification and support of victims. Delays in identification and poor support for survivors of modern slavery in the UK are a dangerous result of the ongoing campaign to locate this global phenomenon in immigration policy. Make no mistake, there is no “gold plating” in the UK’s support for victims of modern slavery. 

We want a process that works, that can identify victims and support survivors to recover. Overwhelmingly we hear the need for existing measures to be bolstered, improved and extended, not undermined and stripped back, so that everyone has a fair chance at a life without exploitation. And we’ve told the Home Office that. But today again, we see that the government is making dangerous new plans without consulting people with lived experience and the anti-trafficking sector. 

We stand in support of survivors and will continue to do whatever we can to elevate their voices. 

“At its last Universal Periodic Review, the UK Government was celebrated for its dedication and leadership in tackling modern slavery. 5 years later, the picture is so much bleaker. With the recent rollback of victim support coupled with the reclassification of modern slavery as an immigration issue, victims and survivors are being failed. The UK Government must listen to survivor voices, prioritise recovery support and treat modern slavery as the horrific crime that it is. This is an opportunity for the UK Government to listen to its peers at the UN Human Rights Council and show its commitment to once again be a world-leader in tackling modern slavery.”

Cara Priestley, International Advocacy Officer at Anti-Slavery International.

“As one of the world’s largest economies, the EU has significant power to set standards for products and services within its market. The European Commission’s forced labour instrument proposal is promising, however if left in its current form, it will fall short of effectively addressing the remediation of workers and the root causes of forced labour. The model law being launched today offers an example of how legislation can effectively hold companies to account while keeping workers at its centre. We hope this will drive improvements within the proposed EU Regulation so that workers may be better protected against forced labour.”

Hélène de Rengerve, Senior EU Adviser at Anti-Slavery International

“The Qatar World Cup will forever be tainted with the devasting exploitation and forced labour of migrant workers, thousands of whom have lost their lives for three weeks of football. The dark side of the ‘so-called’ beautiful game has been exposed – an event only possible because of the exploitation of vulnerable people seeking to provide for their families and a disgusting example of sportswashing. We remain dismayed at the failure of governments and sporting bodies to urgently address the event's cost to human lives. It is critical that the Qatar government, FIFA, football associations and home governments make sure that migrant workers can access remediation – including reimbursement of unpaid wages and recruitment fees, and compensation for harm – both in Qatar and in their home countries. This includes creating an independent migrant resource centre and providing non-financial support, including mental health support, to help these migrant workers regain their freedom and dignity.”

Chloe Cranston, Head of Thematic Advocacy Programmes at Anti- Slavery International. 

“In fewer than three months, we have had three Prime Ministers and three Home Secretaries – including one who shook the foundations of the UK's protections for modern slavery victims. In these three months, crucial legislation on modern slavery has slowed or ground to a halt. In the UK at the moment, a three-month period could see over 4000 people referred to authorities as potential victims of modern slavery, with 1600 exploited as children. There is a real risk that thousands of victims and survivors of modern slavery are being forgotten and failed. The new Prime Minister and their Home Secretary must act urgently to protect people against modern slavery. In less than a month the UK will have its human rights record grilled by the UN Human Rights Council, a landmark moment for our new leader. It's time for them to roll up their sleeves and do the important work needed to keep people safe from modern slavery.”

Jasmine O'Connor OBE - CEO of Anti-Slavery International

"In towns, streets and communities all across the UK, people are trapped in modern slavery. This is not only a failure, but an affront to us all. At a time when the UK needs an urgent upgrade of existing legislation and policies on modern slavery that better protect people, instead, a dangerous narrative is being spread – and victims of slavery up and down the country are being failed."

See the full opinion piece from our CEO Jasmine O'Connor OBE at the Independent, here.

“Whether tricked, coerced, or forced, into exploitation, people living in modern slavery are denied their fundamental freedoms. Slavery is known to affect nearly 1 of every 150 people around the world, including over 100,000 estimated victims in the UK. The Government has a duty to protect all survivors of modern slavery. It’s a question of ensuring the rights and freedoms of people without, and they live right here in our communities. We challenge all rhetoric that suggests otherwise and stand up to scapegoating of modern slavery victims to advance a political agenda at the expense of people’s welfare.

Lucy Symington, Parliamentary Officer

Chloe Cranston, Business and Human Rights Manager at Anti-Slavery International says

“With the significant rise in modern slavery seen in the newly released 2022 Global Estimates we need urgent, meaningful action and laws to tackle the exploitation of workers around the world. The proposal announced today is not enough for the 17 million people in forced labour exploitation and the 3.9 million people in state-imposed forced labour. The EU still has the opportunity to change the lives of millions around the world, but to do so we urge the European Parliament and Council to strengthen its proposal, put workers first and make sure it is strong enough to end corporate complicity in state-imposed forced labour.”

 

Hélène de Rengerve, Senior EU Advisor at Anti-Slavery International says

“We welcome this important proposal from the European Commission. While we are pleased to see the proposal cover all products from all regions, it falls far short of its potential and fails to put workers at its heart. The proposal lacks explicit requirement of companies to remedy workers – that is, for example, to provide them with pay, passports and protection. The ambiguity of the proposal surrounding state-imposed forced labour, such as Uyghur forced labour, is deeply concerning. The absence of clear procedures vastly reduces its power to compel companies to remove state-imposed forced labour from their supply chains.”

"We are deeply disappointed to see that the number of people in forced labour and forced marriage around the world has risen so significantly, with an increase in 10 million people since the last Global Estimates were released. While disappointed and saddened, we are not surprised. These Global Estimates demonstrate at the global level that the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in many more people around the world being subjected to forced labour and forced marriage, which has risen by a shocking 6.6 million. This has been further compounded by the effects of conflict and climate change. Devastatingly, children now account for 12% of people in forced labour, which is also a significant increase.

These Estimates are a wakeup call, highlighting more than ever the urgent need for stronger legislation around the world to prevent these abuses. Where legislation already exists, governments must prioritise implementation and enforcement so that nobody is subjected to slavery. These Estimates demonstrate that urgent action is needed. Governments, businesses and civil society must rapidly step-up action, ambition and momentum to tackle modern slavery, if we want to see a world where everyone experiences freedom."

Catherine Turner, Director of Advocacy and Programmes

"The documentary The Real Mo Farah this evening was humbling.

We honour Sir Mo’s experience as a survivor. His personal story, like all survivors, is unique, but all too common. These very public revelations will no doubt be extremely challenging for Sir Mo to re-live so publically.

We feel a collective pain, pride, sadness in being witness to Sir Mo’s deeply personal journey and we must work hard to ensure that all children whether from Kyiv, Karachi or Kettering are treated humanely, not exploited in domestic servitude or other forms of modern slavery.

Let’s resolve to ensure that no one is in fear of coming forward to UK authorities to report their exploitation, that they are believed and get the help they need. Sir Mo’s extraordinary life shows us that when a victim is believed, when they are supported, they have the chance to flourish. 

‘I was concerned with me being free . . . Just being free.’ Sir Mo Farah."

Ryna Sherazi, Director of Fundraising and Communications

“We applaud Sir Mo Farah, Hussein Abdi Kahin, for the brave telling of his story. It’s heart wrenching that he was taken from his family at such a young age and brought into the UK under false pretences to be exploited in domestic servitude. Tragically this experience highlights the plight of thousands of men, women and children in the UK who are coerced into exploitation and slavery, who then discover that the laws in this country increasingly may not protect them. We hope this story will provide comfort and support to others who may be experiencing fear and discrimination in a hostile immigration environment.” 

Jasmine O'Connor OBE - CEO of Anti-Slavery International

"Thanks to the bravery and strength of Ms Wong, the Supreme Court has ruled that diplomatic immunity will no longer protect diplomats serving in the UK from civil cases of modern slavery being taken against them. This is a hugely important step towards ending the exploitation of domestic workers in the UK. We know that overseas domestic workers in the UK face a serious risk of exploitation and abuse, largely due to abuses of visa insecurity including in the diplomatic community. Removing the protection of diplomatic immunity means that workers trapped in these exploitative situations are closer to getting justice. 

However, this case highlights the overall lack of protection for domestic workers in the UK. In 2012 the right which enabled migrant domestic workers to change employers without restrictions was taken away. This right allowed those on the Overseas Domestic Worker visa to escape exploitative employers and challenge the systematic abuse they face. This needs to be returned immediately. We don't know the full extent of abuse and exploitation of domestic workers in the UK, but this ruling will shine more light on this serious issue and will hopefully lead the way to greater protection."

Jamie Fookes - Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group Coordinator at Anti-Slavery International

Anti-Slavery International, alongside other civil society across the UK, is calling for a Business, Human Rights and Environment Act to be introduced in the UK. Current laws aren’t strong enough to hold businesses and the public sector to account when they fail to prevent human rights abuses, including modern slavery, and environmental harms throughout their supply chains. Victims of corporate harm should also be able to access justice in UK courts.

Due diligence laws are gaining traction around the world, as demonstrated by the EU’s milestone proposal in February. The UK government keeps dragging its feet despite businesses, civil society, and the public all calling for the UK to keep step. Failure to keep up with global developments only stands to lose Britain its global leadership on modern slavery, and further creates an unlevel playing field between UK businesses and their counterparts, which is why we are calling for Business, Human Rights and Environment Act."

Chloe Cranston - Business and Human Rights Manager

“Conflict exacerbates vulnerability to trafficking and many of those fleeing Ukraine are ever more vulnerable to exploitation. But there is an additional risk to those who've survived trafficking and exploitation in Ukraine prior to the start of the conflict. They may still be extremely vulnerable and now find themselves at risk of re-trafficking. In Anti-Slavery International's Precarious Journeys report Ukraine was identified as a key country on the trafficking routes from Vietnam to Europe, and we are concerned that there may be many people in Ukraine who will have even greater challenges in seeking safety.

“We stand firm in our call for safe migration routes, which are the key to safety. We are pleased that neighbouring countries have opened their borders to those fleeing the conflict and we urge them to pay close attention to the most vulnerable. We join the calls on the UK Government to make the journey to the UK much easier. This crisis is an urgent reminder that the Nationality and Borders Bill is vehemently opposed across the anti-trafficking and migrant rights sector because it will make it all the harder for people to enter the UK and access the support they sorely need.”

On the UK government’s visa scheme:

“While we are pleased to see the British public prepared to open up their homes to refugees fleeing Ukraine, we have been concerned that the Government has not provided consistent and rigorous structure for this process. The Government must take the lead in providing a strong process and checks and balances to prevent exploitation and abuse. As we have warned with the Nationality and Borders Bill, when the Government doesn’t create safe and legal routes for people to migrate with dignity they are leaving the door wide open for trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable people.”

Neil Sammonds - UK and Europe Advocacy Manager

Lucy Symington, Parliamentary Officer at Anti-Slavery International:

“We are deeply disappointed to see that the first flight to Kigali is going ahead, signifying the start of the Home Office’s policy to remove asylum seekers to Rwanda. The policy, and the potential elevated risk of modern slavery, have not been adequately scrutinised by the UK Parliament and have faced wide and passionate opposition by the sector – both in the streets and through the courts. Asylum camps gather vulnerable people, exposing them to human traffickers and greater risk of exploitation, rather than the safety and sanctuary they are seeking.”

“We are disappointed to see the Nationality and Borders Bill go for Royal Assent. It will harm victims of human trafficking by blocking them from support, making it harder for them to come forward or be identified and by expanding the harmful hostile environment policy. We will continue to challenge this legislation as it begins to be implemented.”

Jamie Fookes - Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group Coordinator at Anti-Slavery International

The Home Office’s Recovery Needs Assessment for modern slavery survivors is failing those it is supposed to protect

The Recovery Needs Assessment (RNA) was designed to provide tailored support to survivors of modern slavery, but a new report from the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group (ATMG) hosted by Anti-Slavery International, shows that it is failing the individuals it is supposed to protect. Insufficient support is making people vulnerable to the rising costs of living and heightening the risk of re-trafficking.  

LONDON | 26 April – The ATMG, with Anti-Slavery International, today publish the first independent review of the Recovery Needs Assessment, the mechanism through which survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking in England and Wales have their support needs assessed and provided for. In the wake of recent reports that the government will be sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, raising questions about the treatment of vulnerable people, this report outlines further ways that the Home Office is failing those in need.

Based on first-hand accounts of the RNA, the report is researched and informed by those who have experienced the process – survivors of modern slavery and support workers. The report outlines failings and shortcomings, including a stark failure to take account for full needs, including financial need – ever more crucial in the face of the rising cost of living.

While the Home Office states that “involving survivors in policy making will help to ensure we have robust and effective policies” the report demonstrates that many of the failures are rooted in the fact that survivors and the anti-trafficking sector were not consulted in the development of the RNA. We urge the Home Office to implement the report’s recommendations, and crucially to meaningfully consult with survivors and experts as they make the necessary improvements.

Key findings

Every survivor said that they had, at times, been destitute. By failing to provide for basic needs, the RNA leaves survivors vulnerable to the rising cost of living, increases debt, and hinders recovery, all things that can heighten the risk of re-trafficking. (pg. 21)

The needs of children are not met. Support is generally denied for children of trafficking victims. This can increase further financial hardship for survivors, meaning survivors often have to take their children to appointments and children can be exposed to emotional harm. (pg. 20)

The RNA is exceptionally complex, inefficient and unclear. Most survivors reported having to make important, impactful decisions with little understanding of the consequences. (pg. 14)

The RNA is not trauma-informed or person-centred.  There was a stark lack of consultation with survivors and the anti-trafficking sector in the development of the RNA. The UK is failing to uphold the Trauma-Informed Code of Conduct (TiCC), which it has endorsed. (pg. 28)

Kimberley, RNA Researcher at Anti-Slavery International said:

“It is clear from this research that the RNA requires a complete overhaul. It shows there was no engagement with survivors and stakeholders prior to implementing the RNA policy. Survivors are left making ill informed decisions in regard to their recovery and decisions are being made, as to what recovery needs a survivor has, without directly engaging with the survivor themselves.”

Olly, RNA Researcher at Anti-Slavery International said:

“As a survivor working on this project it was harrowing to discover the lack of knowledge survivors held over the RNA stage in their journey and their entitlements. The RNA report has brought to light the level of exclusion of survivors from their own RNA, and how damaging this is to their well-being and recovery.

“Survivors are having to prove they need on-going support even once recognised as a victim through a conclusive grounds decision. Survivors shouldn’t be made to feel overwhelmed by frequent evidence requests, left with the feeling of being disbelieved or re-triggered and challenged over their support needs. Survivor autonomy is key to a system that supports the recovery and well-being of those enduring the RNA process.”

Beth Mullan Feroze, Policy Officer at Anti-Slavery International said:

“It was important to us that survivors were given meaningful opportunities to give feedback on a process that they often felt excluded from and powerless within. The findings would not be as rich or valuable without them.

“Many support workers are going above and beyond to try and ensure that survivors get the support they need, unfortunately the bureaucratic and time-consuming process and limited nature of the support makes this difficult. Our research indicates that problems within the process are leading to survivors being left without the vital support they need and at increased risk of being re-trafficked or exploited further.

“We hope that this report and its recommendations will help guide policy makers to see the importance of a truly victim-centred and needs based approach to recovery because until that is in place this process will continue to fail survivors."

Neil Sammonds, UK and Europe Advocacy Manager at Anti-Slavery International said:

“Anti-Slavery International is very proud to host the ATMG and to support its vital research into the UK’s anti-trafficking support mechanisms and the promotion of survivor agency. This research highlights the positive value of involving people with lived experience in understanding and improving anti-trafficking policy, as discussed in the ATMG’s previous Agents for Change report, and the inevitable negative consequences of their marginalisation.”

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Anti-Slavery International, founded in 1839, is committed to eradicating all forms of slavery throughout the world. We work at local, national, and international levels, including exemplar frontline projects with partner agencies around the world to address the root causes that enable modern slavery to flourish. Anti-Slavery International’s five-year organisational strategy works to deliver ‘freedom from slavery for everyone, always’ and focuses on four priority themes: ending child slavery, responsible business, migration and trafficking, and slavery and the environment.

The ATMG (Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group) is a coalition established in 2009 to monitor the UK’s implementation of European anti-trafficking legislation, hosted and chaired by Anti-Slavery International. The group examines all types of human trafficking, including internal trafficking and the trafficking of British nationals.

"We welcome the news that ministers are planning to stop the government being able to buy health goods made through slavery. This is a huge step forward to strengthen the UK’s approach to banning the procurement of all products made with forced labour, both Uyghur forced labour, and from anywhere in the world. But there is still much to do to prevent products made with forced labour entering the UK. The government must introduce a Business, Human Rights and Environment Act, to make sure that all companies and the public sector must prevent environmental and human rights harms, such as forced labour, in their value chains."

Chloe Cranston - Business and Human Rights Manager

“Over the past few years, Anti-Slavery International has watched closely as various countries around the world have made moves to introduce vital mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence laws. Laws that would not only prevent terrible human rights abuses from occurring in company supply chains, but crucially enable victims of these abuses to access justice. However, Canada has been far behind countries such as France, Germany and Norway in proposing such important legislation, but the recent moves in Canada present a brilliant opportunity for Canada to meet, and even raise, the standards of what can be expected from such important legislation. The proposal must have the teeth needed to prevent human rights abuses and modern slavery. The Government can and should do so much more to prevent all forms of modern slavery, including forced labour.”

Rocio Domingo-Ramos - Business and Human Rights Policy and Research Officer

“We are deeply shocked and saddened to hear that the Home Office has announced a dangerous and inhumane plan to send asylum seekers to camps in Rwanda, using the military to enforce this agenda. This is a very worrying precedent and one that not only sends a strong message that refugees are not welcome in the UK, but one that will play into the hands of traffickers.

"Asylum camps will put vulnerable people at greater risk of exploitation; they will not disrupt people-smuggling operations and make people safer. The only people this policy will benefit are human traffickers in Rwanda. By placing individuals who are already vulnerable to exploitation, into a country with a weaker modern slavery prevention system and into an environment where they will be at an elevated risk from human traffickers."

Jamie Fookes - Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group Coordinator at Anti-Slavery International

“The proposal is a milestone in the global efforts to address the prevalence of forced labour in supply chains. However, it has clear shortfalls and possible loopholes, which could mean it fails in its potential. We still hope for further ambition and clarity, including the inclusion of small-medium sized enterprises from a wider range of sectors and making sure there are no loopholes that would allow companies to evade responsibility for abuses lower down in supply chains.”

Helene de Rengerve - Senior EU Advisor at Anti-Slavery International says:

“After long delays, we welcome the Commission’s announcement that it will introduce a proposal for a stand-alone initiative to ban forced labour goods from the EU market. This mechanism must be strong enough to address supply chain complicity in systemic cases of forced labour, like Turkmenistan and the Uyghur Region, and to facilitate urgent remedy to victims.”

Chloe Cranston - Business and Human Rights Manager