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Chloe Cranston, Business and Human Rights Manager:

“The UK sorely needs a robust law to prevent modern slavery in business supply chains. Anti-Slavery International welcomes the Modern Slavery Bill outlined in the queen’s speech today. This is an important signal that the UK government is finally taking action to meet the commitments it made in September 2020 to strengthen corporate accountability. However, the proposed changes do not go nearly far enough. We need the UK to go beyond a legislation that focuses on reporting, to introduce a Business, Human Rights and Environment Act that will actually mandate companies to take meaningful action to prevent modern slavery (and other human rights and environmental abuses) in their supply chains. Even more, they must be held accountable when they fail to do so. In parallel, the UK must introduce import controls so that products made with systemic forced labour, such as from the Uyghur region and Turkmenistan, won’t be allowed to enter UK markets.”

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

“The Queen’s speech today announced a raft of proposed legislation which further attack the human rights of vulnerable people in the UK. While we welcome the government’s commitment to tackle Modern Slavery in supply chains, any commitment to the human rights of trafficking victims is completely undermined by the recent assent of the Nationality and Borders Bill and by measures proposed to curb the human rights act and limit the ability for individuals and the courts to challenge government decision making. We also deeply fear the government’s continued de-prioritisation of the human rights of migrants will further harm victims of trafficking. Again, we believe the government is unnecessarily risking innocent lives in order tackle a perceived problem with scant evidence.”

“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.

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

"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