UK Home Office releases new statutory guidance on the Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Home Office has this week published statutory guidance under section 49(1) of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The guidance covers indicators of trafficking, support, and the decision making process. The statutory guidance will replace a number of existing documents, namely:

  • Guidance: Duty to Notify the Home Office of potential victim of modern slavery
  • Victims of modern slavery: frontline staff guidance
  • Victims of modern slavery: competent authority guidance
  • Multi-Agency Assurance Panels Guidance

 

The guidance also provides clear and practical explanations on the fundamental definitions of human trafficking and modern slavery under the Modern Slavery Act 2015, providing examples of actions, means employed by offenders, and different forms of exploitation victims may be subjected to, whilst also including a section dispelling commonly held myths about human trafficking and modern slavery; for example, for human trafficking to occur an international border must be crossed. The guidance also provides important information on the distinction between human trafficking and human smuggling (also termed ‘people smuggling), listing a range of factors that might be used to identify the distinctions. More complex cases, surrounding issues such as forced marriages, potential ‘sham’ marriages, and illegal adoption are discussed in the guidance, which indicates how these issues may relate to human trafficking and modern slavery, but also how they may operate as distinct and independent offences.

A link to the full guidance can be found here.

Criminal Exploitation in the Context of Homelessness

Criminal Exploitation, Forced Criminality and Homelessness

Homelessness continues to be a major risk factor for individuals’ becoming victims of human trafficking and modern slavery. HTMSE previously analysed the links between homelessness, human trafficking, and modern slavery, and the critical requirement for ongoing, long term support provisions. Homelessness itself leads to an individual having an increased visibility to potential exploiters and therefore an increased vulnerability to becoming a victim of modern slavery. However, homeless individuals can have a range of complex vulnerabilities beyond their homelessness that may include mental health problems, substance addiction, and physical health problems.

Throughout 2019 there was a marked increase in awareness of homeless individuals being approached at soup kitchens, night shelters, and ‘drop-ins’ where they are deceived with promises of work and income. Specialist Modern Slavery and Homelessness organisations, both governmental and non-governmental, have stated that individuals who are homeless are being specifically targeted for exploitation, which in many cases takes the form of criminal exploitation; where the victims are forced to commit crimes. In the case of victims who are homeless, the modern slavery charity Unseen found that the criminal exploitation is most commonly in the form of forced begging, though their exploitation may also involve being forced to commit theft, deal and/or produce drugs, or a number of other criminal acts. Victims of criminal exploitation may be arrested, charged, and even prosecuted and imprisoned for the crimes they have been forced to commit before being formally identified as victims of modern slavery and/or human trafficking and receiving appropriate support. HTMSE has provided extensive training on this area throughout the UK and world.

Criminal exploitation and forced criminality has been an area that has received substantial attention recently across the counter-trafficking and anti-slavery sectors and mainstream media, most notably in the context of ‘county lines’ drug dealing operations. Increases in awareness and guidance for addressing criminal exploitation across law enforcement, legal and local authority professionals; the prevalence of modern slavery and human trafficking across various industries such as the hospitality industry, and in particular new models in the hospitality sector such as ‘AirBnB’; and the links between homelessness and modern slavery, can all be considered positive shifts towards the development of effective strategies to combat modern slavery and human trafficking across society. However, in the context of homelessness and modern slavery individuals may swiftly become trapped in cycles of exploitation. As discussed in HTMSE’s previous analysis of homelessness and modern slavery, victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are at an increased risk of becoming homeless without appropriate long term support in place, and homeless individuals have an increased vulnerability to potential exploiters.

The circularity of this issue remains a clear demonstration that a comprehensive multi-sector response is needed to effectively tackle these issues.

 

Doorstep Scams, Rogue Traders, Travelling Sales and Modern Slavery

Human Trafficking and Doorstep Scams

Door to door scams and rogue traders have been points of focus recently for their links with modern slavery and human trafficking. However, the links between door to door scams and modern slavery and human trafficking are not new issues. In July 2015 the Polaris Project published a report entitled ‘knocking at your door: Labor Trafficking on Sales Crews‘, exploring the major issues of modern slavery, human trafficking and forced labour in the travelling sales industry. The Polaris Project’s report focused specifically on the US context, but awareness of door to door scams and rogue trader’s links with modern slavery and human trafficking has risen in the United Kingdom too.

 

What are Door to Door Scams and Rogue Traders?

The Neighbour Hood Watch provide a general overview of doorstep scams, including who is likely to be targeted by doorstep scammers and what sort of scams might be involved. They identify typical doorstep scams involving ‘home improvements’, where an individual will knock on the door of their victim, without warning, and explain that their home is in need of improvement works, such as gardening, re-wiring, re-roofing etc, and that this work is extremely urgent. However, more recent incarnations of these traditional scams include installing solar panels, exploitation of internet connections, and the creation of false technical service provider adverts on search engines. Aside from these typical doorstep scams, the Neighbourhood Watch also links apparent doorstep sales pitches with distraction burglary and identity theft.

 

Links to Modern Slavery

Door to door scams of the kind noted above are being increasingly identified as being undertaken by victims of modern slavery. Criminal gangs will target vulnerable individuals who are held by the gang and forced to work for little or no pay, with one reported instance stating that a victim had been forced to work long hours 7 days a week for food and tobacco.  These patterns broadly mirror the findings of the Polaris Project’s 2015 report, which found vulnerable young people in need of employment would be offered the chance to work for a travelling sales company. Once in the ’employ’ of the company the victim would be moved around the country, often under threat of violence and/or abandonment, and forced to work for no wages.

Debt bondage can be a common feature of modern slavery and human trafficking involving doorstep sales, scams and rogue traders. Vulnerable victims are initially offered shelter, food, support, and transport, which gets tallied against them as a debt. Continued reliance on the traffickers for these provisions adds to the debt, as well as failures to meet randomly assigned sales quotas.

The noted increase in victims of modern slavery being used to carry out door to door sales and scams has led to authorities calling for greater vigilance from consumers, both to be careful of new incarnations of old scams, but also of who is the individual apparently carrying them out.

Public Sector Supply Chains and Government Compliance

Public Sector Supply Chains and Government Compliance
image from Shutterstock

The Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act published the final report at the end of May 2019. The final report proposed a consultation to run that focused on issues surrounding transparency in supply chains and modern slavery reporting. On the 9th July 2019 this consultation was launched, forming part of a governmental commitment to improving section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which addresses modern slavery reporting requirements and transparency in supply chains. The consultation took responses from NGOs, charities, businesses, public sector bodies, and various other organisations and interested parties, addressing three key areas:

 

  1. The content of modern slavery statements: This section addressed inconsistencies in reporting approaches taken by different companies and the possibility of making certain criteria mandatory. This section also sought to address the fact that global movements in modern slavery legislation may make it desirable to ‘harmonise our approach’. The questions posed focused on reporting practices and the implications of making certain areas mandatory.

 

  1. Transparency, Compliance, and enforcement: The second section of the consultation sought to propose the introduction of a central government registry, one designed to improve transparency. It also addressed reporting deadlines, proposing a single annual reporting deadline so as to reduce the confusion of multiple separate deadlines throughout the year. It finally sought to gain views into how section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act might be enforced. Questions were posed on each of these areas.

 

  1. Public sector supply chains: The final area addressed in the consultation examined public sector supply chains. In essence, the consultation proposed that reporting requirements would be extended to public sector organisations with a turnover of more than £36 million per year.  Reporting requirements would be for each individual government body to maintain responsibility, whether given individually or as part of a group statement. The questions posed by this section of the consultation focused on the apparent benefits and challenges of imposing modern slavery reporting requirements on large public sector bodies.

 

The consultation period ended on the 17th September 2019 and the following day the UK Government announced a series of measures that would be introduced to ensure that governmental supply chains were free from Modern Slavery. The UK government spends approximately £52 billion in the procurement of goods and services, with wider public sector annual spending nearing £203 billion. The statement further announced a new partnership with the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply to provide training and awareness to government workers and departments. The announcements addressed several of the issues raised in the consultation surrounding public sector supply chains, with proposals that from 2021 individual ministerial departments will produce their own modern slavery statements. However, the final response to the period of consultation has yet to be released.

Anti-Slavery Day, 18th October 2019

Today the 18th October 2019 marks Anti-Slavery Day, upon which members of HTMSE, along with international organisations, governments, local authorities, companies, charities and individuals around the world raise awareness for those affected by human trafficking and modern slavery. Since 2015, HTMSE has been working to connect both victims to professional support and professionals to professionals aiming to aid the development of knowledge in the human trafficking and modern slavery sector. 

To combat these complex and global issues, the need for international and interdisciplinary cooperation is critical. HTMSE is an open, free, online, central contact directory and eLearning platform enabling collaboration and cooperation between stakeholders in the human trafficking and modern slavery sector. This year, our database has increased exponentially, furthering access to specialist knowledge, cases and research from around the world. We have been listed on the Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner’s website as an official resource available beyond public and private sectors, with contact details and eLearning material open freely to society via the internet. We have been recognised by Tech4Good as a finalist for the Community Impact Award 2019, demonstrating how technology and connectivity is instrumental in driving forward a social justice agenda today. 

HTMSE receives a high number of referrals each week from both professionals and victims requesting expert assistance. HTMSE has connected hundreds of victims of trafficking and human rights violations to the support services they require, such as victim shelters, legal advice, and mental health support both within the UK and internationally. Furthermore, HTMSE has connected NGOs, specialists organisations and professionals working in this sector, facilitated the exchange of  information, legal representation and expert reports, research and litigation that has led to justice for victims of human trafficking. 

HTMSE and it’s members are having a tangible impact on the human trafficking and modern slavery sector. Today we recognise this progress, whist preparing for another year of impact and development that is needed to address the fact that 21 million people worldwide are still currently victims of modern slavery. For those who work in this sector, and are not yet listed on the HTMSE directory, we encourage you to sign up a profile here: https://humantraffickingexperts.com/main/signup

HTMSE’s Founder and Director Appears Before Home Affairs Select Committee on Modern Slavery

Earlier this year our founder and director Philippa Southwell was called to give oral evidence as a legal expert in the Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry. As well as giving oral evidence our director Philippa also gave written evidence. Issues that were raised during the inquiry concern the Modern Slavery Act 2015, in particular the section 45 modern slavery defence and excluded schedule 4 offences, and section 54 corporate modern slavery compliance. Also of note were concerns regarding the exploitation of British national minors involved in child criminal exploitation in the forms of forced drug possession, robbery, burglaries, and weapons running. Philippa gave legal analysis on all of these topics. Further areas of focus by the inquiry were:

  • The detention of Modern Slavery victims in immigration removal centres, and the adequacy of policy in relation to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking being held in immigration detention centres.
  • The role of the independent anti-slavery commissioner and the relationship between the different law enforcement agencies, e.g. the police, NCA, GLAA, etc, with the national referral mechanism was a major focus of the evidence given by law enforcement professionals and the former Independent UK Anti-Slavery Commissioner.
  • and, Victim, and victim support services’, perspectives on policy and support available to victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.

The evidence for the inquiry was presented as a combination of oral and written evidence and is drawn from a wide variety of professionals and organisations representing a broad spectrum of sectors. At present those who have given evidence include legal practitioners from a wide range of specialisms; the NGO sector; law enforcement professionals and organisations, including the Home Office, NCA, Local Authorities and multiple police forces; Academic institutions and the research sector; various corporate bodies; and multiple individual experts and specialist organisations.

The Home Affairs Select Committee Modern Slavery Inquiry is ongoing, with oral evidence continuing to be heard. The final findings have yet to be announced. Both the written and oral evidence that have been heard as part of the inquiry, including those submitted by Philippa Southwell, can be found here.

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2019

World Day against human trafficking

The world day against trafficking in persons was held on the 30th July 2019. The day is designated by the United Nations as a moment to reaffirm commitments to tackle human trafficking, support victims, and protect those at risk globally. Human trafficking is an exploitative crime that targets men, women, and children for a variety of purposes, including forced labour, sexual exploitation and organ removal. In 2000 the United Nations opened for signature and ratification the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, commonly known as the Palermo Protocol. The protocol delivered an internationally accepted definition of human trafficking as:

 

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.

 

Since 2000 the United Nations has collected data on over 200,000 victims of human trafficking identified across the globe. In addition to this the International Labour Organisation published figures stating that in 2016 there were at least 40,000,000 victims of modern slavery worldwide. Despite the introduction of many legislative instruments since 2000 around the world to tackle the issues of human trafficking and modern slavery, such as the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015, the French Duty of Vigilance laws, and Australia’s New Modern Slavery Act 2018, the issues of human trafficking and modern slavery continue to pose a vast global challenge.

It is increasingly recognised that tackling human trafficking and modern slavery, crimes that are often of a hidden nature, requires multi-agency collaboration and professional experts from across all sectors. The Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Expert Directory was established in the UK to bring together professionals and specialists who work in the counter-trafficking and anti-slavery sectors from around the world. Victims of human trafficking can be transported within their own country or across borders many thousands of miles from home. The directory addressed a critical need for a centralised global database of experts and professionals to better enable those working in the field to approach an incredibly complex, often international, problem. The HTMSE directory lists a large cross section of professionals and organisations, all of whom have different specialisms and varying qualifications, including  NGOs, charities, businesses, lawyers and law firms, medical practitioners and researchers. The directory is designed as a free resource for all, whether signing up to the directory as an expert or searching the directory in search of an expert.

In 2015 the United Nations presented the Sustainable Development Agenda, which included a target of ending human trafficking and modern slavery by 2030, which according to a recent study is far from being met. However, whilst this year’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons focused on calling governments around to world to action it also promotes action by all.

If you are a you are a professional, NGO, charity, business, lawyer, medical practitioner, or other expert or specialist organisation and wish to sign up to the Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery Expert Directory and professional network please follow the link here.

 

 

UK Government response to the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015

In July 2019 the UK Government released it’s response to the Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which was published earlier in the year. The Review appointed experts to advise on the following four sections of the act, making a total of 80 recommendations:

  1. The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (s 40-44)
  2. Transparency in Supply Chains (s 54)
  3. Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (s 48)
  4. Legal Application (specifically s 3 on the meaning of exploitation, s 8-10
    on Slavery and Trafficking Reparation Orders and s 45 on the statutory defence).

 

The response to the Independent Review sets out several actions the UK Government will be taking to address some of the recommendations, including the launching of a public consultation about transparency in supply chains and the announcement of £10 million for the development of a new modern slavery policy and evidence centre. The policy and evidence research centre will involve academics, charities and firms. However, whilst the new centre has been described as having great potential to improve knowledge on human trafficking and modern slavery there are some concerns that the new initiative is being developed while policy is failing in other areas.

The full UK Government response can be found here.

Tech4Good Awards 2019

On the 17th July HTMSE attended the Tech4Good awards as a shortlisted finalist in the Community Impact Award category.The Tech4Good awards recognise the use of technology to make a social difference across a variety of different sectors, such as accessibility, connectivity, inclusivity and community impact.

Contemporary slavery is a current global issue, which directly affects even the corporate and commercial markets with the introduction of the s54 of the UK Modern Slavery Act, and similar legislation in the USA and Australia. Furthermore, the migrant crisis and forced migration has also compounded human trafficking and modern slavery, it has become an ever present issue and there has been an increase in media and public awareness on this topic. Almost 21 million people worldwide are victims of modern slavery, which generates  $150 billion for traffickers each year and is a growing market.

The Human Trafficking & Modern Slavery Expert Directory (HTMSE) is an e-commerce initiative founded in 2015 by leading human trafficking lawyer Philippa Southwell, after identifying a desperate need for a single resource for professionals working in the counter human trafficking and modern slavery sector. The directory is an advanced search engine established in order to link specialists not just within the UK based legal community, but to connect with lawyers, medical experts, academics and corporate stakeholders globally that can advance development on this issue, and create the link between modern slavery victims and support. This use of technology in the counter-trafficking and anti-slavery sectors is unique, with the majority of technology being used to monitor and research victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, research and monitor suspected offenders, and to provide ongoing support to law enforcement agencies.

Since its launch, the initiative has established itself as a leading global directory. It enables individuals to search for professionals by their specialist fields and location worldwide.

Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 Released

Independent Review Modern Slavery Act 2015

The Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 has was published this week on the 22nd May 2019. The review has identified eighty recommendations for improvements to the operation of the act and wider policies to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking in the United Kingdom. The review makes significant recommendations for how legislation should be amended to increase compliance by businesses and improve supply chain transparency, including:

  • Recommendation 25: Failure to fulfil modern slavery statement reporting requirements or to act when instances of slavery are found should be an offence under the Company Directors Disqualification Act 1986.
  • Recommendation 22: The legislation should be amended to require companies to consider the entirety of their supply chains [in respect of modern slavery]. If a company has not done so, it should be required to explain why it has not and what steps it is going to take in the future.
  • Recommendation 18: In section 54(5) ‘may’ should be changed to ‘must’ or ‘shall’, with the effect that the six areas set out as areas that an organisation’s statement may cover will become mandatory. If a company determines that one of the headings is not applicable to their business, it should be required to explain why.
  • Recommendation 32: Section 54 should be extended to the public sector. Government departments should publish a [modern slavery] statement at the end of the financial year, approved by the Department’s board and signed by the Permanent Secretary as Accounting Officer. Local government, agencies and other public authorities should publish a statement if their annual budget exceeds £36 million.

The recommendations would significantly increase the responsibility on businesses to address anti-slavery in their supply chains, and afford the government greater power to punish companies that do not comply.

The full report can be found here.