Monday, 21 April 2014

Background to the draft Modern Slavery Bill

This week has seen widened coverage of the draft Modern Slavery Bill that we referenced a few months ago in our 8th December update. Interested parties are keen to ensure that it is fit for purpose. The general consensus is that there still need to be some amendments made to the draft to ensure that the four ‘p’s’ of protection, prevention, prosecution and punishment are covered, and that the victims involved are sufficiently protected.

To provide some background to this issue, on 22nd October Fiona Mactaggart MP made a request to the Backbench Business committee for a debate on modern day slavery (supported by Frank Field MP). The debate then took place on 5th December prior to Theresa May’s release of a White Paper detailing the plan for the Modern Slavery Bill on 16th December.

This debate transcended party politics and provided evidence of exploitation countrywide. Some of the issues brought forward included stiffer penalties for traffickers, better victim support and seizing of assets to compensate victims and fund investigations.

It was suggested that for this Bill to work there needs to be a better infrastructure in place, including a Commissioner (already proposed), EU enforcement and a system to make organisations accountable.

In 2012, according to Diana Johnson MP, 2,200 people were trafficked into the UK but some were trafficked out. Michael Connarty MP and Sir John Randall MP relayed incidences of people being trafficked, for example to Sweden within the construction industry and to Italy and France for prostitution. Whilst it is true that police, social workers, health workers and immigration staff must be vigilant, so must we all.

Andrew Selous MP reported that Bedford Borough Council addressed public awareness through prompt cards handed out around the area asking the question “Is the person you are with a victim of Modern Slavery?”

It gives a few questions for people to consider:

  • Do they know their home/work address?
  • Is there expression of fear, distrust or anxiety?
  • Are their individual or group movements restricted by others?
  • Do they have limited contact with family and/or friends?
  • Is money deducted from their salary for food and/or accommodation?
  • Are their passports/documents held by someone else?

It then prompts those that are concerned to contact the police. There is also information about local charities and safeguarding teams. He suggests that this is a good approach to raising awareness for councils nationwide.

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