The Independent reported yesterday that ‘modern slavery’ is at a record high in the UK and that 8 out of 10 potential victims that had been referred in 2019 are still stuck in system. Figures have now surged to a record high of over 10,000 victims in 2019, up 52% from 2018. It also reports that figures have been rising yearly and that there was an increase of 36% the year before.
Last June, the BBC posted an article on their website asking what the then PM, Theresa May, had done to tackle modern slavery. It touched on the ‘Modern Slavery Act 2015’ that she’d introduced before becoming prime minister, which it explained was designed to create “new duties and powers to protect victims and prosecute offenders” and gave the police greater powers to “stop boats where trafficking is suspected”. The act also further empowered the courts so they could hand down harsher sentences and put pressure on large businesses to take steps to prevent modern slavery within their supply chains.
The BBC article concluded that the new bill had been successful as there had been “a considerable increase in tackling modern slavery offences at every stage since the law was introduced”. The police, it claimed, had been able to refer more cases to the Crown Prosecution Service who, in turn, were able to charge more people and get more convictions. It also added that victim referrals had increased year-on-year since it had been created in 2009.
However, it was clear, even to the BBC at the time, that the victims of slavery were left particularly vulnerable and were in fact being further victimised by the new system. Having been referred to the authorities, their nationality and immigration status would be checked and, consequently, many would simply be deported. The BBC article references a select committee inquiry into modern slavery from 2017 which concluded that, faced with the prospect of deportation and with no ongoing access to support, many victims were either left destitute or even forced to return to their enslavers.
Was this simply an unexpected consequence of good intentions? Bill’s are subject to a great deal of scrutiny by both houses of parliament and members are able to submit amendments but when the house majority is right wing and anti-immigration, you can expect some rather nasty legislation to pass through.
Remember, the architect of the Modern Slavery bill is Theresa May who also happened to be the architect of numerous other “hostile environment” policies, including the Windrush scandal which saw hundreds, if not thousands, of the Windrush generation and their British born children wrongly detained, denied legal rights, denied benefits and denied the medical care to which they were entitled. Many subsequently lost their jobs and homes and some were even deported by the Home Office.
Who could forget “Operation Vaken”? Not heard of it? Well, that’s the name they gave to May’s “Go home or face arrest” vans. Incidently, Simon Hattenstone explained the shocking significance of the word “Vaken” in an article he wrote for the Guardian at the time. As a word it has Germanic origins and means “Awake” but even more concerning are the links he makes to German nationalism and Nazi propaganda. He explains that the poem “Deutschland Erwache” (Germany Awake), written by Dietrich Eckart, was the de facto anthem of the Sturmabteilung, the original paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. He goes on to explain that the words “Deutschland Erwache” actually adorned the banners that flew at the Nuremberg rallies and that Hitler even dedicated the second volume of Mein Kampf to the poet.
It might help to take a closer look at Theresa May’s voting record to see if we can get a better insight into her mind set and to better understand her strategy. Perhaps, we’ve misjudged her intentions and the Modern Slavery bill was simply flawed, rather than designed to provide her with another tool with which to slash immigration?…
7th May 2014
Theresa May voted to decline a Lords amendment to the ‘Immigration Bill’ that would require the appointment of an independent child trafficking guardian to represent the best interests of children suspected to have been brought to the UK as part of a trade in human beings.
13th October 2015
Theresa May voted to make it a criminal offence for migrants to be able to rent a home, drive or work, while disqualified from doing so, due to their immigration status.
25th April 2016
Theresa May voted to decline a Lords amendment to the ‘Immigration Bill’ that would have provided extra protections for migrant Domestic Workers, including leave to remain in the UK which would allow them to change employers without repercussion.
25th April 2016
Theresa May voted to decline a Lords amendment to the ‘Immigration Bill’ that sought to permit 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children to be relocated to and supported in the UK. Vulnerable and often unaccompanied refugee children are targeted by people traffickers.
25th April 2016
Theresa May voted to decline a Lords amendment to the ‘Immigration Bill’ that would ban the detention of pregnant women and require guidance to be taken into account on the detention of vulnerable people.
1st March 2017
Theresa may abstained on a motion calling on the government to work with other EU countries and support access to family reunification under the Dublin III Regulation and to continue to monitor local authority capacity for further transfers of children under the Dubs scheme.
7th March 2017
Theresa May voted against an amendment to the ‘Children and Social Work Bill’ that would require that at least one member of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel had specialist expertise in tackling domestic abuse.
I know it’s part of the Tory DNA to do the complete opposite to what they say they’re going to do but with a track record like that, I think it would be extremely difficult to argue that the architect of the “Modern Slavery” bill, Theresa May, had the concerns of the victims at heart or that they even entered her thoughts, when she was drawing up the bill. Clearly, as the data shows, just like the “Go-home” vans campaign and her treatment of the Windrush community, the bill merely gave the Home Office even greater powers to find and deport even more “migrants”, including victims who had been trafficked as children.