In comments published this week Dame Sara Thornton, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said that addressing the issue of leave to remain for confirmed victims must be a priority for the coming year.
The Commissioner highlighted the serious risks facing survivors of modern slavery who are not granted leave to remain after being confirmed as victims saying
"There is a powerful moral argument for granting leave for those whom the state has concluded are victims of trafficking or slavery but there is also a practical one. Without such leave survivors, who are not claiming asylum or who have not been granted EU settled status, are not entitled to accommodation and have limited access to benefits – they will either be unable to leave safe houses or left destitute on the streets. Surely 2021 is the year to resolve this?”
The Commissioner also noted that “the overall number of survivors granted discretionary leave remains very low” revealing previously unpublished data on the number of victims granted discretionary leave under the current procedure – in 2019 just 70 confirmed victims were given discretionary leave, compared with 123 in 2015.
Dame Sara also noted that from 1 January 2021 EEA nationals face a new uncertainty about their future immigration status.
The Free for Good campaign shares the Commissioner’s view that addressing the suffering and risk of re-trafficking faced by victims who are not granted a period of leave to remain and ongoing support must be a priority for the Government in 2021. The Government could quickly bring about change by supporting Lord McColl and Sir Iain Duncan Smith MP’s Modern Slavery (Victim Support) Bill which is still waiting to be debated in the House of Lords. As the Commissioner said surely 2021 is the year to resolve this issue and ensure all survivors of modern slavery can rebuild their independence and live free for good.