Santa Marta Group calls on UK Parliament to strengthen anti-slavery legislation

The Santa Marta Group and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales made a submission to the Home Affairs Committee, drawing on the experience of the charities and agencies working with the Church to tackle modern slavery in England and Wales.

This is in response to the Committee’s inquiry into the progress made since the Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into law.

The submission focused primarily on support for victims, supply chain transparency and the role of the Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

The recommendations include:

  • That the government takes steps to reduce the length of time that victims of modern slavery must wait for decisions on their immigration status, particularly concerning the right to work. There should be discretionary leave to remain available for victims of modern slavery, for at least an initial period of 12 months, but then as necessary to facilitate protection and recovery.
  • That the government provides sufficient support so that people in the NRM can meet their costs. The Home Office has agreed to introduction of a pre access NRM as recommended by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner and this should be introduced immediately.
  • That a statutory follow-up and recording process is introduced for victims of modern slavery who have been through the NRM and that the government explores the possibility of extending support in cases where this is necessary.
  • That the government strengthens implementation and enforcement of section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act, and does not sign contracts with any company who has not complied. We furthermore support the creation of a government funded-central repository so those companies who have not filed a statement can be identified by investors, shareholders, consumers, NGOs and the public. We would like to see injunctions used, as outlined in the act, and believe that FTSE 100 companies should be the first area of concern.
  • That people identified as victims of modern slavery should never be held in immigration detention centres unless absolutely necessary. Training should be improved to help officers in detention centres identify modern slavery and effectively refer people to the NRM.
  • That the government reforms prostitution legislation in order to protect victims of sexual exploitation, by decriminalising the sale of sex and criminalising the purchase of sexual services, to challenge the demand for commercial sex which acts as a ‘pull factor’ for traffickers and organised crime.
  • That the new Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner reports directly to Parliament and believe that the process of reporting to a civil servant would seriously undermine the independence and effectiveness of the role.

Read the full submission and recommendations here.