MPs vote to keep clauses in Nationality and Borders Bill that could harm slavery survivors

Earlier this month the House of Lords voted to amend or remove some clauses to the Nationality and Borders Bill that could potentially harm refugees and survivors of slavery.

We were optimistic they would be accepted by the House of Commons, however, on Tuesday, MPs voted to reject the amends and keep the Bill primarily how it was.

Clauses they voted to keep include proposals to remove time limits for victims of slavery to disclose their experiences, limits on slavery victims with criminal records being able to access NRM support, and they rejected plans to guarantee survivors a minimum of 12 months in the UK to recover.

People who arrive in the UK ‘illegally’ will also be criminalised, which could include modern slavery survivors trafficked into the UK against their will.

Offshore processing centres for asylum-seekers were also discussed at the debate. This, along with the other clauses mentioned, could exacerbate fears that many foreign survivors of slavery in the UK have of the police and immigration system, making it more likely they will avoid asking for help.

Commenting on the vote to keep the ‘time-line clause’, which would require victims to disclose their status as slavery survivors quickly or lose access to support, Conservative MP Tom Pursglove, who voted against every amendment, said: 

“Where there is good reason for late compliance, there will be no damage to credibility. We have given repeated assurances that, in keeping with the approach taken in our current statutory guidance, “good reasons” will allow for things such as individual vulnerabilities or the effect traumatic events and coercive control can have on people’s ability to accurately recall, share, or recognise such events.”

Commenting on the vote to refuse the amendment to ‘the public order disqualification’ that could prevent those with a criminal history accessing NRM support, Labour MP Holly Lynch, said:

“Given that 48% of victims of modern slavery in the UK last year were criminally exploited, that suggests that clause 62 has the potential to exclude almost half of all victims from support.”

There were more than 12,000 potential victims of modern slavery referred into the government’s support scheme for survivors last year, a 20% increase on the year before. 

The increase in referrals indicates a greater awareness of the support available to survivors and by First Responders, so City Hearts believes it is concerning that accessing help should now be made more difficult by new legislation.