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Ministers refuse calls from senior Tories to protect trafficking victims

Ministers have refused calls from senior Tories to present immigration safety for trafficking survivors, prompting claims that the Home Office is prioritising immigration management over tackling trendy slavery.

Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins has confirmed that she opposes the Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill – tabled by Conservative peer Lord McColl – which calls for contemporary slavery victims of all nationalities to obtain a minimal of 12 months’ depart to stay within the UK.

In a letter to charity After Exploitation final week, Ms Atkins mentioned: “The government does not agree that victims should automatically be granted leave to remain for 12 months. Immigration decisions for victims of modern slavery are made on a case-by-case basis, considering the individual circumstances of the case.”

Former Conservative chief Iain Duncan Smith, who helps the invoice, advised The Independent he was “dismayed” by the response, describing it as “utterly wrong” and accusing Home Office officers of prioritising immigration management over the UK’s combat in opposition to trendy slavery.

“[Home Office officials] have this idea that somehow this would encourage people to apply for conditions under modern day slavery. Well that’s ridiculous: the numbers are tiny,” he mentioned.

“We’ve shown the evidence that if you give victims longer in the UK, they are more likely to turn evidence and give you the opportunity to put behind bars the real people you should be chasing, who are the people manipulating them and getting them sent over here.”

The MP added: “Immigration management is nothing to do with this. If the Home Office officers need to blur the traces, then they’re the responsible events. They will discover it way more tough to prosecute those that are responsible of manipulating lives and abusing folks.

“We have shown them the evidence for this, and the government must act.”

It comes after former Home Office minister Caroline Nokes laid out a damning indictment of the division’s present strategy to immigration management throughout an interview with The Independent, describing it as “profoundly depressing” and at occasions “hideously wrong”.  

The Tory MP mentioned the federal government’s “inhuman” strategy would solely trigger additional issues and find yourself costing the taxpayer more cash, and accused ministers of failing to put folks on the coronary heart of Home Office coverage, as was advisable within the Windrush assessment final March.

Currently, discretionary depart is mechanically thought of for all non-EU survivors of trafficking within the UK, however the total variety of survivors who’re granted it stays very low.  

In 2015, 123 survivors with constructive conclusive grounds had been granted discretionary depart, in 2019 it was 70 and within the first three months of this 12 months it was solely eight. Immigration modifications beneath Brexit imply EU victims may face immigration detention.

Responding to Ms Atkins’s letter, Maya Esslemont, director of After Exploitation, warned that till the federal government created a tradition of security for these exploited, it will be not possible to win the belief of survivors who’re “rightfully fearful of seeking help”.

“The current system of support and recognition is unsustainable and makes it difficult for non-UK survivors to report crime due to the threat of deportation or detention. Equally, UK survivors cannot be confident about the length of support, such as access to safe housing, they will receive if they come forward,” she added.

Kate Roberts, UK and Europe supervisor at Anti-Slavery International, mentioned granting 12 months’ depart to all trafficking survivors was “fundamental” to making certain the UK’s anti-slavery response was efficient, as it will encourage extra victims to come ahead and help them to transfer on from the management traffickers maintain over them. 

“This is a basic and moderate ask which is more important than ever following the UK’s departure from the EU, and would demonstrate a commitment to effectively addressing slavery through supporting recovery and sustainable freedom,” she added. 

Lord McColl mentioned: “We are dropping very important intelligence from all these victims who will not be ready to interact with police investigations as a result of they don’t have long run help or a secure immigration standing. 

“How can we count on victims to interact with courtroom proceedings in the event that they don’t have any certainty about how lengthy they will keep within the UK and whether or not they are going to have a roof over their head or meals to eat?”

It comes after the unbiased anti-slavery commissioner backed granting depart to all victims for the primary time earlier this month, warning that with out this measure they danger being left destitute on the streets.

Speaking to the Thompson Reuters Foundation, Dame Sara Thornton mentioned: “There is a powerful moral argument for granting leave for those whom the state has concluded are victims of trafficking or slavery but there is also a practical one […] Surely 2021 is the year to resolve this?”

The Home Office has been approached for remark.

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