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Iain Duncan Smith: Government must not slash support for modern slavery victims

Human Trafficking
21 July 2021

Former Tory Leader Iain Duncan Smith has warned that new immigration proposals will diminish the support available to victims of modern slavery and urged Ministers to change course.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, currently making its way through parliament, will reduce the level of support available to people confirmed as victims of modern from 45 days to just 30 days. Mr Duncan Smith told Parliament:

“…the support that clause 52 places on a statutory basis is actually less than is currently provided as a matter of practice in England and Wales, which is a problem.

“Essentially, whereas the current guidance in England and Wales affords 45 days’ support, as does the statute in Scotland and Northern Ireland, clause 52 proposes a reduction in England and Wales to just 30 days’ support for confirmed victims of modern-day slavery.”

The bill also does nothing to change the fact that leave to remain for confirmed victims of modern slavery from overseas is “discretionary”, posing problems to the criminal justice system.

Mr Duncan Smith added:

“I gave evidence on this to the Home Office, and I am therefore disappointed that, instead of addressing the problems with discretionary leave that I highlighted last October, the Government have simply placed current practice, which is clearly not working, into a statutory framework.

“Under clause 53, leave to remain will remain discretionary and the same justifications for its provision will apply: being necessary to assist the police with investigations, being necessary because of personal circumstance or being necessary to make a compensation claim.

“The ability of a victim to remain in the UK is unchanged by the Bill, and one would therefore expect that the proportion of confirmed victims in receipt of leave to remain would remain low. In other words, this Bill would perpetuate rather than address the current arrangements in which the vast majority of confirmed victims are denied leave to remain in the UK to help their recovery.

“The police have made it very clear that they want victims to be settled in accommodation so that they know where they are and they can give evidence.”

He concluded:

“I support much of what the Bill is trying to do, and I understand the motives behind it, but part 4 deals with those from the most terrible backgrounds and facing the worst persecution, trafficked as they are. We need to give them time, and that time will help us prosecute the very people we wish to go after. Being good and decent is a payback to us at the same time.”

CARE has campaigned for significant support for slavery victims to be enshrined in law, including a mandatory 45-day support, leave to remain and more long-term assistance after this time.

A spokesman said:

“We believe that more should be done to help victims at the end of the 45 day period of assistance. Unless charities are able to finance an extended stay or longer-term rehabilitation, many survivors are left to fend for themselves and are at risk of further exploitation. CARE recommends that victims should receive greater assistance and support in accessing safe accommodation, welfare benefits, healthcare, counselling and work at the end of the initial recovery period.”

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