Joint Public Issues Team Blog

Joint Public Issues Team Blog

Modern slavery and the hostile environment

Posted: 03 Aug 2018 02:00 AM PDT


 This week marked the UN’s World Day against Trafficking in Persons. It also marked the announcement of a welcome review into the legislation intended to protect those trafficked into modern slavery.

Modern slavery takes many forms. Victims trafficked into Britain come in search of employment, education or a better life, only to be subjected to forced labour, sexual exploitation, debt bondage or domestic servitude. Worldwide, 1 in 4 victims of modern slavery is a child. 71% of them are women and girls.

The 2015 Modern Slavery Act was intended to support victims, intercept organised crime and ‘make the UK a hostile environment for modern slave drivers’. Fast-forward three years and modern slavery has risen tenfold  in the U.K. Home Office data puts its yearly cost at £4.6 billion.

What’s the problem?

This is not a simple issue. As such, doubts have been cast as to the effectiveness of the current strategy. Back in 2015, then Home Secretary Theresa May was rightly lauded for championing an important yet unfashionable cause. But the picture has been bleaker since. The country’s first anti-slavery commissioner resigned in May ‘with a heavy heart,’ claiming he was refused the independence necessary to do his job.

As the two most recent Immigration Acts passed through Parliament, campaign groups have consistently voiced concerns that the hostile environment would exacerbate the issue of modern slavery. Their concerns were ignored.

Among others, Anti-Slavery International, the Joint Welfare on the Council of Immigrants and Focus on Labour Exploitation highlighted the damage posed by the financial exclusion it imposes.

The hostile environment imposes penalties for ‘illegal working,’ and freezes bank accounts. In doing so, it leaves people with two stark choices: destitution or exploitative employment in the shadow economy. The distrust of non-nationals that the policy thrives on imbues fear of the authorities and of deportation. This fear prevents vulnerable trafficked people from seeking the help from the authorities that they may badly need. Such state sanctioned suffering repudiates God’s vision of life in all its fullness for all of God’s children.  A hostile environment for undocumented migrants is a hospitable environment for modern slave drivers.

What can you do?

But it’s not all doom and gloom. If you’re concerned about the impact of modern slavery, we’ve got a few suggestions.

Join us in campaigning to #endhostility

Our recent report revealed the destitution, discrimination and sense of distrust those subjected to the hostile environment (victims of modern slavery included) face. Write to your MP using our template letter to express your concern.

Educate yourself

Calculate your ‘Slavery footprint,’ online. Download apps like the Clewer Initiative’s ‘Safe Car Wash,’ to help you spot the signs of forced labour and exploitation.

Use your purchasing power

Refuse to be complicit. Buy Fairtrade to boost demand for slavery free products. If you’re an investor, see our advice.

Make your voice heard

The Home Affairs Committee’s Inquiry into modern slavery is open until Friday 7th September. Make a submission here.


Remember victims of human trafficking in your prayers.

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