La Strada International is one of 50 NGOs that signed a joint statement urging the UK government to abandon the Illegal Migration Bill. The signatories – migrant rights and anti-trafficking NGOs from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas – are concerned that the Bill would impede our work to support survivors of trafficking. The statement has been coordinated by the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women.
See below the full statement and all the signatories:
We write this statement as an alliance of anti-trafficking experts and service providers from Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and North America. We wish to express our deep concern over the proposals contained within the UK’s Illegal Migration Bill 2023. If enacted, this Bill will have grave consequences for our ability to work together across borders and combat human trafficking.
For decades, the UK has been a key ally in the fight against human trafficking. The proposals contained in this Bill risk undermining all the progress that has been made to date.
We are deeply concerned by the provisions of this Bill that remove all protections for victims of trafficking and asylum seekers who entered the UK without a visa, or with a visa that was obtained by the deception of their trafficker. These victims will be denied access to the Uk’s identification system, the national referral mechanism (NRM) and will face detention and deportation. This applies even to victims who entered the UK against their will.
If these provisions are enforced, many trafficking victims are likely to be denied protection. By its nature, the crime of human trafficking often entails transporting someone from one location to another. For foreign nationals, this will often have meant that they either entered the UK without a valid visa, or with a visa that their trafficker obtained on their behalf. As many trafficking victims in the UK are foreign nationals these provisions will apply to a huge proportion of trafficking victims. .
We wish to recall the horrific tragedy in Essex in 2019, where 39 Vietnamese people suffocated to death in the back of a refrigerated truck. It is widely understood that these 39 people were potential victims of human trafficking. Should any of them have survived, under this proposed legislation they would likely be refused protection. Under the draft law, these potential victims could have been detained and deported on the basis that they entered the UK without permission and had travelled through several other “safe” countries. This would be a clear violation of the UK’s international legal obligations under the UN Trafficking Convention and the Council of Europe’s Convention on Action against Trafficking.
If the UK departs from the internationally agreed law and principles in this field to such a great extent, this will also directly impact our ability to provide support and protection to victims of trafficking all over the world. Human trafficking is a global phenomenon that requires global cooperation between countries. For example, the case of the 39 Vietnamese people had repercussions for multiple countries across Europe and Asia, with court proceedings taking place in three countries across two continents. Our ability to do our jobs will be under threat if we cannot rely on the UK authorities to offer protection and support to potential victims of trafficking within their jurisdiction.
We also wish to comment on the narrow exception proposed in the Bill, that a victim will not be disqualified from protection if they are cooperating with a criminal investigation, but only “if the Secretary of State considers the individual’s physical presence in the United Kingdom to be necessary for that cooperation.” This exception will in practice do little to mitigate the harmful effects of this proposed legislation. Our collective experience has proven that there are many reasons why a victim of trafficking may be unable to cooperate with a criminal investigation. Many victims do not feel safe enough to do so until they have had the time to recover from their exploitation. Others will be fearful of the risk to themselves or their families back home. The practice of data-sharing with immigration enforcement can also make victims fearful of coming forward to support a prosecution – victims are often told by their exploiters that if they go to the police, this will result in their detention and deportation. This fear will become a reality if the Bill becomes law.
In light of the above, we urge the UK Government to reconsider the proposed legislation, and reaffirm its commitment to the global fight against human trafficking.
- Alianza Americas (United States)
- Alliance Against Trafficking in Women and Children in Nepal
- AMKAS Nepal
- Animus Association (Bulgaria)
- Asociacion Civil de Derechos Humanos Mujeres Unidas Migrantes y Refugiadas en Argentina
- Association for Community Development (Bangladesh)
- Association Novi Put (Bosnia and Herzegovina)
- ASTRA – Anti-Trafficking Action (Serbia)
- Badabon Sangho (Bangladesh)
- Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra
- Ban Ying (Germany)
- Biswas Nepal
- Capital Humano y Social Alternativo (Peru)
- CEDAW Committee of Trinidad and Tobago
- CAREF – La Comisión Argentina para Refugiados y Migrantes
- Comensha (Netherlands)
- Comitato per i Diritti Civili delle Prostitute ApS (Italy)
- Espacios de Mujer (Colombia)
- European Sex Workers Alliance (Europe-wide)
- Every Child Protected against Trafficking Guatemala
- FIZ Advocacy and Support for Migrant Women and Victims of Human Trafficking (Switzerland)
- Fundación Libera contra la Trata de Personas y la Esclavitud en Todas sus Formas (Chile)
- GAATW Canada
- Gabriela Germany
- Human Trafficking Legal Centre (United States)
- Human Resources Development Foundation (Turkey)
- KOK – German NGO Network against Trafficking in Human Beings
- La Strada International (Europe-wide)
- La Strada Moldova
- La Strada Ukraine
- Liberty Shared (Hong Kong)
- Mission d’intervention et de sensibilisation contre la traite des êtres humains (France)
- National Workers Welfare Trust (India)
- NGO Atina (Serbia)
- OKUP (Bangladesh)
- Open Gate – La Strada Macedonia
- PION – Prostituertes interesseorganisasjon i Norge (Norway)
- Respect Network Europe
- Rights Jessore (Bangladesh)
- Sema Nami (Kenya)
- Serra-Schönthal Foundation (Spain)
- Shakti Samuha (Nepal)
- Shanti Foundation (Nepal)
- Shramjivi Mahila Samiti (India)
- South African Women in Dialogue
- The World Women’s March Europe
- Trade Collective South Africa
- Transnational Migrant Platform – Europe
- Women Forum for Women in Nepal
- Women’s Initiatives (India)
See more informaton on the bill from our member FLEX https://labourexploitation.org/publications/illegal-migration-bill-committee-stage-amendments-briefing/ and see also this joint UK civil society briefing for the House of Lords second reading.