The British government is accused of leaving victims of human trafficking and exploitation destitute after halving their weekly financial allowance while campaigners call for a change in the law to protect survivors for longer.
“Survivors living in poverty are extremely vulnerable to being exploited as they are forced to look for other ways to make enough money to survive,” Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) said.
Responding to confirmation by Britain’s Home Office that the allowance given to victims of trafficking would be cut, FLEX suggested the UK Government was “putting trafficked people at serious risk of re-trafficking, just to survive.”
Poverty is considered to be just one of the root causes of human trafficking, driving the need for people to leave their country either voluntarily or unknowingly at the behest of traffickers only to be exploited when they reach their destination.
FLEX argues that leaving trafficked victims to rely on such a small amount of money each week leaves them vulnerable to exploitation through illegal work.
Answering a written question put forward by Frank Field, Labour MP for Birkenhead, the Home Office has confirmed victims of modern slavery and human trafficking would be paid the same as asylum seekers, US$56 a week.
“Using methodology that determines the subsistence rates paid to asylum seekers to ensure that individuals with comparable living needs receive the same level of support, regardless of their immigration status,” the Home Office stated in its answer.
In October 2017, Britain’s Home Office cut the allowance for asylum seekers from US$ 95 per week per adult to $53 a week. This means all victims of trafficking who are living in the UK are surviving on less than US$56 a week to pay for their food, toiletries, transport and communications.
Like asylum seekers, victims of modern slavery are not allowed to support their allowance with paid work. “Unscrupulous employers who know that workers are reliant upon them to survive can take advantage of this situation and exploit vulnerable employees,” FLEX states on a recent blog post.
Britain’s Home Office insists that victims of modern slavery “will continue to receive dedicated and expert support, which is tailored to their unique needs as victims of modern slavery.”
Call on FTSE 100 Companies to Combat Modern Slavery
Section 54 of the UK’s Modern Slavery Act requires big businesses with a turnover of US$51 million or more to report what the company is doing to eradicate slavery from its supply chain. However, 16 million people are thought to be working for companies around the world in modern slavery conditions, according to the UK’s independent anti-slavery commissioner.
Kevin Hyland, Britain’s anti-slavery commissioner has written to a quarter of the FTSE 100 companies renewing his call for big businesses to help combat modern slavery urging top FTSE companies to do more to prevent trafficking in their supply chains.
“Taking action on modern slavery and human trafficking is not just a moral obligation — it is in face good business sense,” Kevin Hyland says.
Around Forty million people are victims of modern slavery around the world, according to the Global Slavery Index. One in four victims of modern slavery are children.
While businesses are being urged by the UK’s independent slavery commissioner to play their part in the eradication of modern slavery, FLEX is calling for the British government to reverse its decision to cut the allowance and “recognise poverty as a driver of modern slavery.”
Victims Before Immigration Concerns
The law in England and Wales does not ensure victims of human trafficking and modern slavery have a right to support beyond a limited period of care. Many victims in the UK are left to fend for themselves, putting them in greater risk of homelessness and often vulnerable to being re-trafficked.
The proposed Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill would allow survivors in England and Wales a guaranteed right to support while deciding whether to apply to remain indefinitely or accept help to return home.