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Sophie Hayes Foundation comments on the Government's response to Home Affairs Committee Human Trafficking report

The Government response to the Home Affairs Select Committee’s Report on Human Trafficking was published on 22nd February:

In their December 2023 report, the Home Affairs Select Committee made several recommendations to improve support to survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking like those Sophie Hayes Foundation works with. These included treating human trafficking as a safeguarding rather than illegal migration issue; overhauling the Government’s Modern Slavery Strategy; and acting to recognise the position of women who have been trafficked, with particular provisions in regard to victims of sexual exploitation.

Sophie Hayes Foundation’s CEO Emily Death attended the The Human Trafficking Foundation Advisory Forum where the report was discussed, alongside several updates from the anti-trafficking sector, she commented:

‘I heard from multiple practitioners and experts across the modern slavery and human trafficking sector. They painted a stark picture of a support system in complete collapse; of rampant exploitation as a result of visa changes in sectors like care; of a criminal justice system which convicts those who have already suffered exploitation. The implications of legislative developments like the Illegal Migration Act, the Nationality and Borders Act, and the Safety of Rwanda Bill are having a tangible impact on survivors who are actively avoiding the National Referral Mechanism for fear of deportation in addition to the emotional impact of an increasingly hostile rhetoric in some sections of politics and the media on survivors’ journeys to recovery. It was therefore disappointing to read the Government’s claims that Modern Slavery is still a priority issue for them. The Government notes how its landmark Modern Slavery Act of 2013 led the world and yet today the Government reasserts that they will treat slavery and trafficking as a migration issue. At the Sophie Hayes Foundation, we demand better of all policymakers. We see first hand how a functioning support system enables survivors to look ahead to sustainable freedom. Where that system instead instils fear, distrust, and hostility, survivors’ vulnerabilities are at severe risk of re-exploitation.’

At Sophie Hayes Foundation, we will continue to work with women survivors to better understand and champion the support they need in their journeys to sustainable freedom; to provide policymakers with evidence on where support can be decisive in reducing the risk of re-exploitation; and to enhance public awareness of the crimes of slavery and trafficking.

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