Caritas Bakhita House is among the signatories to a briefing on the Illegal Migration Bill produced by a large number of organisations in the anti-trafficking sector.
The briefing state unequivocally that the Illegal Migration Bill is cruel, inhumane and unworkable Bill and would be bad law if passed. It undermines the universality of human rights in the UK, creating a dangerous precedent that particular groups can be stripped of their rights. It has been roundly condemned by cross-party parliamentarians, the UNHCR, the Council of Europe, numerous UN Special Rapporteurs, the governments of the devolved nations, the Children’s Commissioner for England and Wales, faith leaders, and countless civil society groups.
The Chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Joanna Cherry KC, said “Having carried out legislative scrutiny of the Bill it is overwhelmingly clear that it breaches a number of the UK’s international human rights obligations including the ECHR and risks breaching others.”
The Illegal Migration Bill, says the briefing, is a charter for exploitation, trafficking and modern slavery. It will effectively dismantle the UK’s systems of trafficking and modern slavery protection, denying protection to victims of crime and enabling perpetrators to act with impunity.
Thousands of victims and survivors of trafficking and modern slavery will be denied access to safety and support under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and face detention and removal, due to the way the Bill discriminates against migrants who come to the UK by “irregular routes”. Many victims of trafficking come to the UK this way, under force, fraud or threat and the abuse of their vulnerability. More still will be disqualified due to a prison sentence served, even if this was for a minor offence or they were prosecuted despite the offence being connected to their trafficking experience.
The Bill is a gift to human traffickers. It will enshrine in law the threats traffickers so often make about illegality, detention and removal should victims seek help. Some will feel forced to remain in exploitation due to feat, and those who do escape their traffickers will be forced underground, avoiding contact with authorities or institutions that might have previously been able to assist them.
Impunity for traffickers.
By drastically reducing the likelihood that victims will come forward, assist investigations and act as witnesses in criminal prosecutions, the Bill also entirely undermines a criminal justice response to this grievous crime. This bill which claims to fight trafficking will instead enable traffickers to act with impunity.
The signatories to this briefing are urging MPs to support one of the amendments proposed in the house of Lords, as the Bill re-enters the House of Commons today.
Cross-party Lords Amendment 5 would require that nothing in the Bill requires the UK to break its international obligations, including the ECHR and ECAT. In doing so, this amendment would mitigate the worst effects of the Bill on victims and survivors of trafficking and modern slavery.
This briefing was coordinated by the Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU) and Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX). Click here to read the full document and see the list of signatories.
Speaking on the Illegal Migration Bill earlier this year Bishop Paul McAleenan said:
“While we all wish to end dangerous Channel crossings, this new legislation treats migrants and refugees as a problem to be solved rather than brothers and sisters towards whom we have responsibilities. Establishing more safe routes, and genuinely understanding people’s individual circumstances are essential to meeting these.
“As Christians we call for the human person, made in the image and likeness of God, to be put at the heart of public policy.”
Please act now!
Please write to your MP:
You can use the sample letter on CAFOD’s website, but consider adding to this to mention the importance of amendment 5 for protecting those being trafficked.