A Christian public policy charity has urged the two candidates in the running to become Tory leader to outline their strategy to address the issue of human trafficking in the UK.
Marking World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2022 on Saturday, CARE has written an open letter to Rishi Sunak and Lizz Truss stressing the scale of the threat posed by "vile industries" in the UK.
The letter poses a number of specific questions about securing victim support, allowing leave to remain, and securing more convictions.
Lauren Agnew, trafficking policy expert at CARE said: “As Mr Sunak and Ms Truss set out their stall on a number of important policy areas, we are asking them to demonstrate how they would curb human trafficking and modern slavery. In the UK, as in other countries around the world, modern slavery is a huge problem. Research suggests there are at least 100,000 victims in our country alone.
“People from all walks of life are exploited in the sex trade, county lines activity, domestic servitude and forced labour. Greater vigilance and action are vital. We hope Mr Sunak and Ms Truss will be willing to answer our questions and demonstrate more specific commitments that would make a real difference.”
The charity also expressed concern about the UK Government’s stance towards victims of modern slavery and human trafficking in the last year.
Last December, the government rejected calls to guarantee long-term support for confirmed victims in the Nationality and Borders Act. And in June, Priti Patel suggested modern slavery laws could be ripped up to allow more removal flights to Rwanda.
Agnew told Premier the issue isn’t high enough on either of the candidate’s agenda
“I think we need to be aware of the current climate that we're working in. We are talking about cost of living crisis and inflation. And with that, we're going to be seeing more British citizens plunged into poverty, and they could very much be lured into industries where they're going to be exploited. So there does need to be a heightened vigilance and a clear strategy for action," she said.
“We also know that refugees are among the most vulnerable to target and by traffickers, and we've seen mass displacement of very vulnerable individuals from Ukraine. So I would be really interested to hear how the candidates are going to continue to keep this issue at the top of their agenda. At the end of the day, it can't just be a one day wonder, and this has to be something that is prioritized your mind.”
CARE’s letter to Mr Sunak and Ms Truss states:
World Day against Trafficking in Persons is a sober reminder that human beings are being exploited in vile industries across the globe. Criminals exploit vulnerable men, women, and children through sex trafficking, criminal exploitation, domestic servitude, and forced labour.
Sadly, these vile forms of exploitation are also seen in the UK. There are an estimated 100,000 victims of modern slavery in our country. And in an increasingly volatile world, it is likely that the situation will become more, not less, severe in coming years.
We know that refugees are among the most vulnerable to targeting by traffickers. Given the mass displacement of people in Afghanistan and, more recently, Ukraine, the threat towards such people is acute. Migrants crossing from Calais are also extremely vulnerable.
Concerningly, we also live in a context of worsening economic inequality, and rising inflation. More British citizens are going to be plunged into poverty and could be lured into industries where they will be exploited. The need for heightened vigilance and action is clear.
There has been positive action in the last year, including a commitment by the UK Government to support confirmed victims of modern slavery. However, we have been concerned by a seeming reluctance to provide solid guarantees to this end in legislation.
We are also concerned by the Home Secretary’s suggestion that modern slavery safeguards could be rolled back in order to bolster deportation policy. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 is a world-leading piece of legislation that must not become a pawn in contentious debates.
We are grateful that you have set out your views on a number of vitally important policies in recent weeks. As the contest moves forward, we would appreciate your thoughts on the equally important subject of modern slavery. Please answer the following:
- Would you commit to providing 12 months guaranteed support for confirmed victims of modern slavery in law, rather than through guidance?
- Would you commit to providing guaranteed leave to remain for confirmed victims of modern slavery, and trafficking in order that they can access vital support?
- How would you ensure more effective implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, to ensure more prosecutions and convictions of criminals?
- What is your position on the ‘equalities model’ which would challenge demand for exploitation by criminalising the purchase of sex?