Home Secretary Amber Rudd yesterday announced that all potential modern slavery cases would now be decided by a single unit within the Home Office, completely contradicting the findings of its own 2014 review of the decision-making process.
Commenting on the changes, Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) Director, Claire Falconer said:
“For years the Home Office has been widely criticised for its poor handling of modern slavery cases. The decision to not only continue but to increase the Home Office’s control of the modern slavery decision-making process is nonsensical, contradictory, and will have serious implications for modern slavery victims in the UK.”
Currently, decisions to grant victim status to potential modern slavery victims are made by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and by UK Visas and Immigration within the Home Office, depending on the immigration status of the victim. In a 2014 review of this system (called the National Referral Mechanism) found that: “a majority press for the removal of responsibility for the National Referral Mechanism from the Home Office and the establishment of an independent body outside of UK Visas and Immigration and the Police.” Concerns surrounding Home Office bias and extremely slow decision-making led to a recommendation to pilot a new system that removed the sole decision-making roles of the NCA and Home Office, and trialled the use of multi-disciplinary expert panels to make decisions.
However, in making the announcement yesterday, the Home Secretary has ignored the findings of the review and rejected the recommended multidisciplinary approach. Instead, multidisciplinary panels will only have a role in reviewing negative decisions.
Ms Falconer said:
“The Home Office is desperate to retain absolute control over decisions about who is or is not a victim of modern slavery, despite their demonstrated inability to do this in a fair and timely manner”
“The refusal of the Home Office to relinquish full control over the identification of victims will mean that legitimate victims will continue to be subjected to long waits, to attacks on their credibility, and to biased decision-making”
Just as disappointing in yesterday’s announcement is the absence of any measures to improve the quality of victim support in the UK. Again, the 2014 review made recommendations for improving the quality and appropriateness of support for victims, and in particular recommended the provision of longer-term support.
“In her announcement yesterday the Home Secretary is continuing to ignore the severe shortcomings of the UK’s support system for victims of modern slavery. This is particularly disappointing coming one day before Anti-Slavery Day. Until the support options available to victims are improved, victims will continue to suffer and will remain at risk of exploitation”
Notes to editors:
The Home Office announcement from 17 October 2017 is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/modern-slavery-taskforce-agrees-new-measures-to-support-victims
The 2014 Review of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of human trafficking is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/modern-slavery-taskforce-agrees-new-measures-to-support-victims