1. The problem
Different forms of modern slavery affect men, women and children in the UK, and though most of the victims enslaved in the country are from overseas, British citizens are within the top ten countries of origin for suspected victims of trafficking referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM).5 Primarily originating from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, victims of modern slavery are forced into sex work, domestic servitude, agriculture, construction, food processing, benefit fraud, coerced criminality, and work in nail salons and food services. The most common countries of origin of identified victims include Nigeria, Vietnam, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, China and Uganda.6
Children have been found in forced labour in agriculture, construction, hospitality, nail bars as well as in domestic work, forced criminality and benefit fraud.
Forced labour has been identified within low, unskilled occupations in factories, agriculture, food processing, restaurants, nail salons, construction, door-to-door leaflet delivery and also in the tarmacking and block-paving industries.7 Children have been found in forced labour in agriculture, construction, hospitality, nail bars as well as in domestic work, forced criminality and benefit fraud.8 Recent research has identified the vulnerability of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK to forced labour, as a result of their incredibly precarious living situation arguably created by the UK asylum system.9
Understanding the scale of modern slavery in the UK is difficult. The UK has no official data capture mechanism so the main figures available are from victims who choose to interact with the UK’s NRMs, and also from the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) 2011 baseline assessment (which only a minority of police forces, local government agencies and NGOs contributed to). When this situation is considered in the context of levels of under reporting and lack of awareness among frontline agencies, especially amongst social services, it is likely that the Walk Free estimate of 4,200 – 4,600 enslaved is conservative.
Notable aspects of the problem
Vietnamese criminal gangs and networks are prominent in the cannabis trade, and children and young adults have been found to have been trafficked from Vietnam into forced labour on cannabis farms. Albanian criminal networks have also been noted moving into this arena.
Rather than being identified as victims, children have been prosecuted for offences connected with their situation of slavery.12 Children can be forced to perform criminal activities like pick-pocketing, metal theft, drug cultivation and begging, or may be sexually exploited. Some are trafficked into the UK and registered for financial aid from the Government then left destitute. In June 2013, three children from Vietnam who had been trafficked for work in the UK for criminal gangs had their convictions quashed on appeal. The court issued guidance to other courts on how to assess situations involving victims of trafficking, particularly children, who are being prosecuted for crimes.13 The court noted the Director of Prosecutions will soon issue directions on this to the Prosecution Service on this issue.
2. What is the government doing about it?
|Supplementary Slavery Convention||Yes|
|UN Trafficking Protocol||Yes|
|Forced Labour Convention||Yes|
|Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention||Yes|
|CRC Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children||Yes|
|Domestic Work Convention||No|
The UK has ratified all key treaties relating to modern slavery with the exception of the domestic workers convention, and is a party to the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Most forms of modern slavery are criminalised under UK law but relevant provisions are scattered throughout different laws: the Sexual Offences Act 2003 criminalises trafficking for sexual exploitation; the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 criminalises trafficking for exploitation; the Coroners and Justice Act 2009 criminalises modern slavery without a precondition of smuggling into the UK, including slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour; and the Scottish legislation, Section 22 which refers to traffic in prostitution. Consolidation of the existing offences into a single law would make it easier to apply and clearly identify gaps in the law. There is also a need for the law to address the issue of non-prosecution of victims for crimes committed while under the control of traffickers, and to ensure all modern slavery crimes are subject to asset recovery provisions.14 As at September 2013 there are proposals being considered for review of both British and Scottish modern slavery laws.15
budget allocation of the UK on this issue is not known
The budget allocation of the UK on this issue is not known. On 10 April 2013, a question was posed to UK Government on expenditure. The response was “A number of Government Departments and agencies are involved in work to combat human trafficking. Total expenditure for this work is not recorded centrally.”16 It is known that the Government has made £3 million available to The Salvation Army to run the contract for provision of support to adult victims of trafficking who have been referred through the NRM.17
In the United Kingdom the response to the existence of human trafficking and modern slavery has been placed in the jurisdiction of several government departments, local government agencies and a wide range of NGOs. Within the Government, the remit for human trafficking is delegated to the Minister for Immigration in the Home Office. There is also a Human Trafficking team which operates under the Organised and Financial Crime Unit and works on developing and implementing policy. The Home Office also set up a Joint Strategic Board, comprising NGOs, government agencies, SOCA and UKHTC, to monitor the progress of the Government’s 2011 Human Trafficking Strategy and identify issues and risks related to the issue. The Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, comprising of nine different UK-based organisations, was established in 2009.
The Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on human trafficking – first set up by the previous government in 2005 and then re-assembled in 2010 under the current coalition government – is the UK Government’s response to the EU Directive which requires that all member states must appoint a ‘National Rapporteur’ or an equivalent mechanism responsible for monitoring the activities of state institutions with regards to human trafficking. It is also required under this Directive that measures to combat trafficking should be measured and statistics gathered. (Article 19 EU Directive)18
In 2006 the UKHTC was opened. This multi-agency centre brings together expertise and information from a number of organisations, both state-run and non-governmental – including the NRM – which has the authority to identify and refer victims for care. Victims, or potential victims are referred to the NRM by first responder agencies which include the UK Border Agency, police forces, the Gangmaster’s Licensing Authority (a government agency which licenses and regulates certain sectors where workers are particularly vulnerable), local authorities and several NGOs. In 2012, the United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre identified received 1,186 referrals of potential victims of human trafficking.19
The provision of victim support falls under the remit of the Ministry for Justice and the Government-funded Victim Support Programme with primary contract holder – The Salvation Army and sub-contractors.20 Identified victims are given a 45 day reflection period within which they are given accommodation and cared for, and allowed some time to recover from their experience. When a conclusive grounds decision is made, then the Government’s support obligations end, so it can be shorter or longer than 45 days. After the reflection period, a conclusive grounds decision is made by the relevant Competent Authority, UKHTC or the UK Border Agency as to whether the victim has been trafficked or not. After that, if the victim wishes to remain in the country, the Salvation Army will provide ten hours of ‘resettlement’ assistance.21 Outside of this, a number of NGOs provide similar support services such as shelters for victims not engaging the NRM process as well as legal advice.
NGOs play an important role in the UK in fighting modern slavery. Their responsibilities include raising awareness, promoting events, conducting research, campaigning and lobbying. A small number provide safe accommodation and support to victims and 11 provide first response services in correlation with the NRM. The Government partly funds a selection of these via the victim support service led by The Salvation Army.22
Notable aspects of the response
Front line police play a critical role in addressing modern slavery within the UK, however, only 10% of officers in England and Wales have undergone training, which is delivered through an e-learning package. Making comprehensive, detailed training mandatory for all police officers in the UK would have a significant impact on law enforcement and the protection of victims of slavery.23
programmes … do not reach vulnerable communities already within the United Kingdom, such as asylum seekers and refugees
Efforts to prevent trafficking in the UK have focused on transnational trafficking and sexual exploitation. They have been dominated by official training programmes and awareness-raising campaigns targeted at border entry points like airports.24 Such campaigns have been criticised for not reaching the scale necessary to target at-risk individuals, and are lacking in clarity. Also, programmes such as these do not reach vulnerable communities already within the United Kingdom, such as asylum seekers and refugees, or officials working with these communities as well as those legally entitled to enter the UK without a visa such as EU and European Economic Area nationals.
3. What needs to happen?
The United Kingdom should:
- Appoint an independent commissioner for modern slavery and human trafficking issues.
- Transfer leadership of modern slavery efforts from the Ministry for Immigration to the Ministry for Policing and Criminal Justice, reflecting the fact that modern slavery is foremost a crime and immigration issues are secondary, or may not even be present in all cases.
- Encourage collaboration between government administrations, local governments and NGOs with a view to share information.
- Pass a modern slavery act to consolidate the legislative response on all aspects of the crime, including all human trafficking and slavery offences, protection of victims from prosecution, obligations to identify and investigate cases of slavery.
- Review and update the current visa policy, which currently allows foreign national domestic workers to work in the UK for 6 months with no possibility of extension, but restricts them to only one employer for the duration.
- Ensure private interviews are conducted with migrant domestic workers after their arrival to assess their working environments.
- Provide information to overseas workers obtaining visas to sensitise them to their rights, and informing them of the help available.
- Target sea ports and smaller regional airports as well as the larger airports for awareness campaigns.
- Increase general sensitisation training of frontline professionals as well as specific training for key officers in all agencies to ensure that any potential victims of modern slavery do not go undetected (the prison system should be included as a frontline agency, offering all concerned the relevant training).
- Reconstruct the National Referral Mechanism into a two-tier system which allows for the recording of data where referrals are not chosen.
- Prioritise victim protection and after-care, offering further assistance to agencies involved to provide better support to victims of trafficking, especially in reintegration.
- Minimum standards of victim care should be agreed upon and monitored.
- Ensure business is brought to the table on this issue, including through the proper debate and introduction of legislation on transparency in supply chains.