The Nationality and Borders Bill has hit headlines over the past 12 months as human rights campaigners, refugee charities, and anti-slavery organisations criticised it for criminalising asylum seekers and making access to support for survivors of slavery harder.
Now, following a recent vote in the House of Lords, controversial parts of the Bill which could have harmed thousands of victims of modern slavery, have been removed.
Controversial clauses in the Bill included Clause 58, which set a tight deadline for victims of trafficking or modern slavery to disclose the full details of their exploitation to the Home Office, or risk having future claims for support discounted. The Lords voted to remove it by 213 votes to 142.
Clause 62 would have disqualified victims of trafficking or modern slavery from entering the NRM (National Referral Mechanism) if they had a criminal record, even if the crime was committed as part of their exploitation. The Bill was amended by the House of Lords to make it only apply to those who ‘pose an immediate, genuine and serious threat to public order’. The Lords voted 210 to 128 to amend clause 62.
Other amendments to the Bill which would affect survivors of modern slavery, include replacing clause 64 with a new clause that would provide support and ‘leave to remain’ for recognised victims of slavery or human trafficking for at least 12 months, and specifies that decisions for children are based on their best interests.
The amendments will not be made law until they have been agreed on by the House of Commons, where the Bill will now go back to for its final stages. Members will then decide whether to keep or reject the amendments made by the House of Lords.
Talking about the Bill, Ed Newton, CEO at City Hearts said: ‘We are pleased that clauses to the Nationality and Borders Bill that would have potentially harmed survivors of trafficking and modern slavery, have been removed by the House of Lords, and we hope the amendments will be respected by the House of Commons. The nature of trafficking crimes means that victims are often traumatised and fearful of authority. Laws that would have required the immediate disclosure of their experiences, or disqualification of support for those with a criminal conviction, would have left many vulnerable people at risk of further exploitation and abuse, whilst empowering criminal gangs to continue to act without fear of reprisals. We are optimistic that, thanks to the House of Lords, the Bill will now treat slavery survivors more kindly.’
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