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Human Trafficking

Peers vote 312 – 211 for Amendment To Protect Rights of Victims Post-Brexit

7 October 2020

Yesterday in the House of Lords, Peers voted 312-211 in favour of Lord McColl’s amendment which aims to safeguard the rights of victims in a post-Brexit Britain.

What’s the Issue?

Immigration rules in the UK are set to change following Brexit. The Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill will bring free movement under the EU to an end. But changes to immigration laws and rules could impact victims of human trafficking because many of them come from EU countries. As such, CARE has been working with Peers to make sure the rights of victims are not watered down.

I make no apology for raising once again the difficult situation that confirmed victims of modern slavery will face as a consequence of the current drafting of the Bill before us.
Lord McColl Peer

Why is this amend­ment so important?

Victims need to be given robust protections if they are to move on from the vicious cycle of being trafficked and then re-trafficked. Some of the existing support systems for victims flows from something called the EU Directive on Human Trafficking. However, because the UK is set to leave the EU from 31 December, it remains at this stage unclear what Brexit will means for the rights of victims and despite being asked, the Government have so far been unclear about Brexit’s impact on modern slavery victims and their rights.

Watch the CARE Session on Human Trafficking with James and IJM's Euan Fraser

What is Lord McColl’s Amend­ment Try­ing To Do?

Lord McColl’s amendment means victims from countries within the European Economic Area (this includes EU Member States plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) will receive the same immigration rights as they would in a post-Brexit Britain. They would also be automatically considered for leave to remain rights, provided they meet the criteria in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which is means victims are recognised. If they are confirmed, in a post-Brexit Britain, these victims would be entitled to a minimum of 12 months leave to remain, with access to public funds so they could get jobs and receive benefits.

Amendment 27 would ensure that all confirmed victims who are EEA nationals are automatically considered for leave to remain. Without this change, confirmed victims who are EEA nationals will lose one of the avenues for recovery that is currently accessible to them—namely, immigration status and recourse to public funds through treaty rights. They will also find themselves at a disadvantage when compared with confirmed victims of modern slavery who are not EEA nationals and who are already automatically considered for discretionary leave.
Lord McColl Peer

What hap­pens next?

The Immigration and Social Security Coordination Bill will have its Third Reading in the House of Lords on Monday 12 October. It will then enter a stage known as ‘ping-pong’, possibly on Monday or later on next week. Ping pong is when MPs will vote on amendments passed by the Lords. If MPs approve Lord McColl’s amendment, it will become law when the Bill receives Royal Assent.

It would be unconscionable for this House to acquiesce to the erosion of the legal rights of victims of modern slavery. It would be one thing for the Bill to have no effect, either for good or ill, on the rights of victims, but for it to make things worse would be extraordinary.
Lord Alton Peer

What Can You Do?

There are two things you can do in response. Firstly, you can pray MPs will accept the amendment. Secondly, you can write to your MP and ask them to support it on Monday.

It’s worthwhile saying that even if the amendment is rejected by MPs, there may be opportunities to secure some changes from the UK Government to ensure victims are protected post-Brexit. Please pray the Government would be open to negotiations.

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Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is one of the greatest violations of human dignity. We are fighting for effective laws that will help victims get better support.

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