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Modern Slavery Bill misses mark on prevention, protection and accountability

June 11, 2014

The Modern Slavery Bill introduced today reveals some small and positive steps forward, but still falls well short in the areas of victim protection, prevention and accountability.

Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) is pleased the Government has taken up FLEX’s concerns for the right of victims to anonymity in the duty to report (provision 44). FLEX also welcomes attention to the key issue of compensation through the inclusion of Slavery and Trafficking Reparation Orders (provision 8), yet notes that in reality such orders will only assist a small number of victims in cases where traffickers are successfully prosecuted and their assets identified and confiscated.  As FLEX notes in its Working Paper on Access to Justice for Victims of Trafficking, released today, a much more comprehensive approach to legal remedies is required.

The Government’s approach remains narrowly focused on criminal justice and the prosecution of perpetrators.  Claire Falconer, FLEX Legal Director said:

“Whilst we applaud the Government’s continued commitment to ending modern day slavery, the Modern Slavery Bill will achieve little unless it includes provisions to effectively preventhuman trafficking and labour exploitation, to protect the rights of victims, and to improve accountability.”

Prevention: The Bill’s approach to prevention solely consists of slavery and trafficking prevention and risk orders (provisions 15 and 23).  The government must adopt more comprehensive prevention measures, including increased labour inspections, expanding the remit of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority to high-risk sectors, and strengthening the labour rights of vulnerable workers.

Protection: Broader protection provisions are essential. The Bill only provides for guidance to address the identification and support of victims, and lacks a strong statutory footing for victim support and assistance.

Accountability: As FLEX has previously argued, the Anti-Slavery Commissioner’s remit should include the protection and support of victims, allowing the Commissioner to be a voice for victims.  Under the current Bill, the Secretary of State retains tight control of the Commissioner’s resources and activities, undermining the independence of the position.

FLEX Legal Director, Claire Falconer, commented:

“Such tight restraints on the Modern Slavery Commissioner completely go against the goals of objectivity and accountability that this role is intended to bring.  A Commissioner so constrained may well be worse than no Commissioner at all”.