Earlier this week, the Prime Minister made a statement in the House of Commons on immigration. It looked at many issues including a plan to clear the backlog of asylum seekers by the end of 2023, the setting up of a specialist team to handle claims from Albanians, a new unit to monitor small boats crossing the English Channel and ending the use of hotels for asylum seekers.
According to the Home Office, 40,000 people have crossed the Channel so far this year, with 35% of this number being made up of Albanians. In response to this, asylum case workers will be given new guidance requiring them to look more closely for evidence of modern slavery when deciding the outcome of a claim.
STOP THE TRAFFIK firmly believes that there is a need for clarity in order to navigate what are highly complex and multifaceted issues.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May MP spoke during the debate, saying: “People smuggling and human trafficking are distinct and separate crimes and should not be treated or spoken of as one; and modern slavery is a very real and current threat with too many people brought to this country into slavery. We must do nothing to diminish our world-leading protections for the victims of this terrible, horrific crime.” (House of Commons, 13 December 2022)
Much as there is a clear requirement to differentiate between people smuggling and trafficking, there is an equally clear need to apply clarity and evidence in decision-making in order to uncover the most accurate picture of how people traffickers are operating.
We should be cautious when conflating definitions of exploitative crimes, which could risk putting the victims involved in further danger. The reasons for people seeking asylum vary enormously. Above all, we need to make sure we protect the vulnerable people who are being exploited and do not risk further traumatisation and harm.
Trafficking is a global issue involving multiple actors. Intelligence and data helps us to identify patterns, trends and routes, showing us where vulnerable people are likely to be and how we can prevent them from being exploited.
We encourage the government to adopt a collaborative, data-driven approach to help make the best decisions. Accurate information is essential and, when acted on, becomes our best weapon both against modern slavery and some of the rhetoric surrounding it. Transparency is key, story sharing is imperative and we all need to be evidence led in our approach.
Yet again, yesterday we heard about tragic loss of life that has occurred with the sinking of a boat in the English Channel. Desperation has driven people to make that journey in freezing conditions and it is another reminder of the urgency by which we need to act.
Every story must be heard, founded on our belief that people shouldn’t be bought and sold. We have the capability to utilise intelligence and evidence to build a richer picture of trafficking routes. Our success depends on our ability to work together.