The 2016 Global Slavery Index estimates that 45.8 million people are subject to some form of modern slavery in the world today. The Index presents a ranking of 167 countries based on the proportion of the population that is estimated to be in modern slavery. http://www.globalslaveryindex.org/findings/
Those countries with the highest absolute numbers of people in modern slavery are India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Uzbekistan. 58% of those living in slavery do so in those five countries. Practitioners will be alert to the fact that several of these countries provide the low-cost labour that produces consumer goods for markets in Western Europe, Japan, North America and Australia. For more see Note for the board on offences under the Modern Slavery Act 2015
What about the position in the UK and what are we doing about it?
Figures for the UK estimate that 0.018 % of the population are living in slavery, which represents 11,700 people. This is the same proportion per head of population as France.
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the process by which an individual is identified as a victim of modern slavery in the UK. The introduction of the NRM was in response to Government’s obligation to identify victims under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking, which came into force on 1 February 2008. From 31 July 2015 the NRM was extended to all victims of modern slavery in England and Wales following the implementation of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
NCA figures for the first quarter of 2016 show that:
- 895 potential victims were referred in to the National Referral Mechanism during the period January to March 2016; a 5% decrease on the previous quarter October to December 2015.
- 11 people were referred from Northern Ireland, 29 from Scotland and 35 from Wales. The remaining 820 were referred in England.
- Potential victims of trafficking were reported as being from 88 different nationalities
- Albania, Vietnam and China are the most common nationality of potential victims referred.
- The most common exploitation type recorded for potential victims exploited as an adult was labour exploitation, this includes criminal exploitation.
- The most prominent exploitation type recorded for potential victims first exploited as a minor where known, was labour exploitation, this includes criminal exploitation.
Of these 895 referrals , 450 were female (50%) and 442 male (49%) and three (1%) transgender.
Referrals to the NRM can only be made by authorised agencies known as First Responders. Authorised agencies in the UK are the police force, the UK Border Force, Home Office Immigration and Visas, social services and certain Non-Governmental Organisations.
The Salvation Army is a First Responder. Of those referred to the NRM , 97 were referred from local authorities, whilst the charitable sector referred 135. These charitable sector referrers were:
- Barnardos: 3 referrals
- BAWSO: 5 referrals
- Hope for Justice: 13 referrals
- Kalayaan: 4 referrals
- Migrant Help: 4 referrals
- New Pathways: 2 referrals
- Salvation Army : 101 referrals
- TARA: 3 referrals
The exploitation types alleged by those referred were:
- Adult – Domestic Servitude 75 an increase of 8.5% on previous year
- Adult – Labour Exploitation 255 a decrease of 9% on previous year
- Adult – Sexual Exploitation 250 an increase of 11.1% on previous year
- Minor – Domestic Servitude 35 an increase of 84.2% on previous year
- Minor – Labour Exploitation 98 a decrease of 0% on previous year
- Minor – Sexual Exploitation (non-UK national) 40 an increase of 66.7% on previous year
- Minor – Sexual Exploitation (UK national) 35 an increase of 52.2% on previous year
Kevin Hyland OBE, the UK’s anti-slavery commissioner has expressed concern at the level of potential slavery incidents being investigated and prosecuted, and said the official record of victims outnumbers the instances of crime recorded. In particular he refers to the fact that in 2015, 986 cases involving minors were referred but only 928 were recorded as crimes.
In April 2016 the Salvation Army was again appointed to hold the Government’s Victim Care Contract to manage the support of all adult victims of modern slavery in England and Wales. The Salvation Army had been managing a similar contract since July 2011. Under the new contract, the Salvation Army is responsible for the oversight of delivery of specialist support services to adult victims of trafficking identified in England and Wales. Under the terms of the contract, the Salvation Army provides services to meet victim entitlements under Article 12 of The Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking of Human Beings . The charity facilitates the delivery of a specialist program which accommodates, protects and supports victims, providing them with access to confidential client-based, tailored support services.
From July 2011 until March 2016 the Salvation Army has supported more than nearly 4,500 victims of trafficking and modern slavery.
1,331 people entered the care of the Salvation Army between April 2015 and March 2016. This contrasts starkly with the first year that the Salvation Army offered this service when the number was only 378.
44% of people the Salvation Army supported had been subjected to sexual exploitation and 42% had been exploited for labour. 13% were victims of domestic servitude.
Over the five years the Salvation Army has been managing this contract the breakdown of types of exploitation has remained largely consistent. These figures are comparable with those recorded by the NCA although number of minors trafficked for sexual exploitation rose in the first quarter of this year. The highest number of victims are referred to the Salvation Army are Albanian.
Large numbers of people are also trafficked for exploitation from Poland, Nigeria and Vietnam. The highest incidences of referrals centre around the biggest cities, London, Birmingham and Manchester.
What happens to those who are referred ?
Referral to NRM is only the first step. Following referral, a decision is made as to whether it is a genuine claim. It is a three- stage process referral, reasonable grounds decision and conclusive grounds decisions.
The NCA records as of the 6 April 2016 of the 3266 referrals to the NRM in 2015:
- 963 (29%) had received negative decisions (reasonable grounds or conclusive decision);
- 871 (27%) of cases received a positive conclusive decision;
- 117 (3.5%) of cases were suspended;
- 83 (2.5%) of cases were withdrawn; and
- 1232 (38%) of cases are pending a decision (reasonable grounds or conclusive decision).
Of the 1834 cases to have received a final decision, 53% were negative and 47% were positive.
The reasonable grounds test is to decide whether a person is likely to be a victim of trafficking. It has a relatively low threshold. The test applied is ‘suspect but cannot prove’.
Reasonable suspicion can never be supported on the basis of personal factors alone (e.g. the appearance of the suspected victim) without reliable supporting information that is precise and up to date or some specific behaviour by the person concerned.
The reasonable grounds decision acts a filter for referring potential victims to the NRM based on the information available at that time. This is followed by a substantive conclusive grounds decision on whether someone is formally recognised as a victim, with a higher threshold.
In the UK the two Competent Authorities are:
- The UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) within the NCA, deals with referrals from the police, local authorities, and NGO’s.
- The Home Office Immigration and Visas (UKVI), deals with referrals identified as part of the immigration process, for example where trafficking or modern slavery may be an issue as part of an asylum claim.
The Competent Authority has a target of five working days from receipt of a referral to decide whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person is a potential victim of modern slavery. This deadline is set by the Government. Once a referral has been made, trained decision makers in the Competent Authority will assess and make a decision on whether an individual is a victim of trafficking or modern slavery.
If it is decided that they are a potential victim then they will be offered a place at a safe house and granted a period of reflection and recovery of 45 days to recover from their ordeal and reflect on what they want to do next, either to co-operate with police as required, return home etc. This can be extended if the victim needs this kind of support for a longer period or if it takes longer than this to make the decision. During this time further information is gathered relating to the referral from the First Responder and other agencies.
The competent authority will then decide whether the person is indeed a victim of modern slavery. There is no target to make a conclusive grounds decision within 45 days. The timescale for making a conclusive grounds decision will be based on all the circumstances of the case. The test for a conclusive decision is that on the balance of probability it is more likely than not that the individual is a victim of human trafficking or modern slavery. Where a conclusive decision is made the victim may be granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK for one year to allow them to co-operate fully in any police investigation and subsequent prosecution. The period of discretionary leave can be extended if required.
If a victim of trafficking or modern slavery is not involved in the criminal justice process, the Home Office may consider a grant of discretionary leave to remain in the UK, dependent on the victim’s personal circumstances.
If it is decided by the competent authority that the person was not trafficked nor is a victim of modern slavery, and there are no other circumstances that would give them a right to live in the UK, they will be offered support to voluntarily return to their country of origin. The person can also be offered support to return to their country if they have been trafficked or are a victim of modern slavery and do not wish to stay in the UK. Alternatively, depending on the circumstances, a person found not to have been trafficked may be referred to the appropriate law enforcement agency , the relevant police force or the UK Border Agency.
Given the numbers of those referred and the period in which they can be supported it is difficult to see how the stated aim to promote an improved law enforcement and criminal justice response to slavery across the UK can be achieved. Victims must be made to feel safe and confident enough to give evidence about what has happened to them and have only 45 days to recover from their ordeal. It is crucial to bridge the gap between the number of positive conclusive grounds decisions and crimes recorded, particularly in respect of minors.