Legislation

Effective legislation is crucial to tackle modern slavery and human trafficking. These are some of the primary legislation that the UK has adopted to tackle modern slavery:

  • Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act (2015).
  • Modern Slavery Act (2015, amended 2016).
  • Human Rights Act (Article 4) (1998, entry into force in 2000).
  • Click here for other related legislation.
  • Legislation is Failing – This Must Change:

    Many governments, including the UK Government, claim to champion the cause of fighting modern slavery, including the UK, just as they gut human rights and social protections, defund labour inspections, roll back hard-won laws and legal victories made by unions, champion harder borders and anti-immigration laws and give even greater power to businesses who perpetrate forced labour.

    Whilst at the time, the Modern Slavery Act (2015) was a landmark piece of legislation as the UK led the global fight against modern slavery, it is ineffective, toothless and there is a severe lack of enforcement. Companies that fail to comply or who are only doing the ‘bare minimum’ to tackle modern slavery in their supply chains are not penalised. Companies can even report a modern slavery statement without taking any action!

    Legislation in the UK does not provide adequate support or protection for survivors of modern slavery. Under current legislation, survivors (even children who have been criminally exploited) are treated as criminals and prosecuted as such. In practice, there is minimal substantial care for identified survivors; many are being detained, deported, or even sent to prison. This benefits traffickers because if authorities mistreat survivors, people in exploitation will be reluctant to seek support.

    The proposed ‘overhaul’ of the immigration system by the UK Home Office uses the anti-human trafficking rhetoric to justify anti-immigration and hard border sentiments. This is incredibly dangerous.

    “The draft Bill seems to miss the reality of how people become trafficked. Factors are likely to include being faced with impossible circumstances and a lack of options. For example, many people who are trafficked to the UK have no choice at all over the circumstances under which they arrive – but this Bill could penalise them for this part of their exploitation. Any legislation which seeks to remove options for safe entry to the UK, while punishing the very people who feel forced to risk life and limb to reach the UK’s shores risks playing into the hands of those who seek to exploit them – the very people the Government claims to be targeting.” – Kate Roberts (Anti-Slavery International).

    Legislation must address the root causes enabling exploitation in the first time including poverty, economic insecurity, gender inequality, lack of access to education, mental health challenges etc.

    “We need to address the issues which keep people in exploitation and prevent them leaving, speaking out or reporting their exploiters to the authorities. We need to improve the employment laws to empower people to challenge exploitation. Traffickers rarely target people with options, people who have a safety net, who can leave, who can go to the authorities and who will be believed. If we want to end slavery, we need to make sure anyone who could be exploited has options and access to justice and the law.” – Anti-Slavery International.

    Governments need to introduce mandatory human rights due diligence laws (Germany recently passed a relatively substantial supply chain due diligence law). Existing legislation must be amended – governments must recognise the systemic nature of exploitation, consult organisations, experts and survivors and stop using the anti-modern slavery rhetoric to justify damaging and inhumane policies.