Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

The ongoing negative effects of the Nationality and Borders Act on survivors of modern slavery

Today the British Institute of International & Comparative Law, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group and the Human Trafficking Foundation have published a new report on the impact of the Nationality and Borders Act on survivors of modern slavery.

Provisions in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 relating to modern slavery came into effect in January 2023. The changes included amending the definition of the ‘reasonable grounds’ (first stage) decision within the National Referral Mechanism (the process used to identify survivors of modern slavery) and the introduction of public order and bad faith exclusions. There has been successful litigation on both of these issues (see our posts on the reasonable grounds challenge and on public order exclusions) but the detrimental impact on survivors continues.

Recommendations for the Home Office include:

  1. Ensure that any changes to modern slavery policy, including changes to the online referral form and Statutory Guidance, are communicated effectively to First Responder Organisations and other relevant stakeholders, allowing them time to prepare appropriately before the changes come into effect.
  2. Ensure compliance with international legal obligations in the development of legislation and policy, including through an in-depth, transparent, and open impact assessment ahead of the formalisation of proposals.
  3. Implement a transparent impact assessment and consultation procedure for any future legislative, policy and practical developments related to modern slavery.
  4. Ensure the fairness of the decision-making process including through regular reviews of data around NRM outcomes, disqualification, and leave decisions by nationality, age, gender, and exploitation type.
  5. Make data on ‘victim of trafficking and slavery leave’ decisions publicly available for scrutiny by researchers, NGOs, and other interested parties.
  6. The lack of publicly available data on ‘victim of trafficking and slavery leave remains a key omission. This data should be disaggregated by age (at time of decision), gender, nationality, exploitation type, grounds on which leave was granted, and length of leave. The data should be included in an accessible format as part of the Home Office’s quarterly NRM statistical bulletin.
  7. Revise the current ‘Adults at Risk’ policy and its application to individuals formally recognised as ‘victims’ of modern slavery through the NRM.

The impact of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and issues around reporting of data on modern slavery were also discussed in our latest podcast looking specifically at the exploitation of overseas domestic workers, which you should listen to if you haven’t already.

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Sonia Lenegan

Sonia Lenegan is an experienced immigration, asylum and public law solicitor. She has been practising for over ten years and was previously legal director at the Immigration Law Practitioners' Association and legal and policy director at Rainbow Migration. Sonia is the Editor of Free Movement.


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