Digital-only proof of status will exacerbate vulnerability of slavery survivors

New rules that have done away with ‘driving licence’ style ‘Right to Work’ cards in favour of digital-only proof of status, will be extremely detrimental for survivors of trafficking and modern slavery, a new briefing has said.

The joint report from anti-slavery organisations City Hearts, The Snow Drop Project, and ATLEU, has used real-life case studies from trafficking survivors to detail the problems that an on-line only service will present to vulnerable people.

Prior to April 6, 2022, foreign nationals in the UK with the right to work were provided with a government issued ID card with a code that allowed them to show prospective employers and landlords that they had the right to live and work in the UK.

Now, however, candidates must access an online government portal and jump through several hoops in order to access a code. The multiple security questions, directions and requirements needed are only available in English, and only accessible using the internet. So anyone with poor English skills, poor literacy, poor technology skills, or with limited access to computers, smart devices, or the internet, will have problems.

Another issue is that the code provided is for a one-time use only, so people cannot write it down to use again. Each time they need to apply for a job, house etc, they need a new code, so must access the portal again.

Survivors of slavery could be excluded from opportunities to work and rent if they are unable to prove their immigration status easily, setting back their recovery, and risking a return to exploitation or re-trafficking.

We believe it is possible to retain a physical alternative to digital status. For instance, during the pandemic, the presentation of negative lateral flow tests were permitted as an alternative to digital vaccine passports.

In light of this, we urge the government to:

Introduce a legal alternative to digital status: Reinstate the ability for UK migrants to use physical proof of immigration status for the right to work and rent.

Publicly consult with survivors and support organisations on future changes to rules around proving your rights, to ensure that systems created are inclusive of all people that use them, accessible in practice, and work to prevent trafficking and modern slavery.

 Read the briefing here: