All 4 Baroness Helic contributions to the Illegal Migration Act 2023

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Wed 7th Jun 2023
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Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Baroness Helic Excerpts
Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, I support these amendments generally, in particular those in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Mobarik—it is a pleasure to follow her powerful speech. I have added my name to Amendments 60 and 65.

It was to the Conservative-led coalition Government’s credit that they ended the routine detention of children and replaced it with strict limits. It is thus inexplicable, as the noble Baroness said, that the present Conservative Government should choose to reverse that policy. Prior to that reversal, the Royal College of General Practitioners, together with other royal colleges, published an intercollegiate briefing paper which described the

“significant harms to the physical and mental health of children and young people in the UK who are subjected to administrative immigration detention”.

It concluded that the immigration detention of children and their families is “harmful and unacceptable”. Among the evidence at the time was that provided by Medical Justice clinicians, who

“identified psychological harm to be caused and exacerbated by detention. Symptoms included bed wetting and loss of bowel control, heightened anxiety, food refusal, withdrawal … and persistent crying. Many children exhibited signs of developmental regression … some attempted to end their own lives”.

Today, many organisations—health, children’s and refugee—have briefed us about the likely health implications of such a reversal. To quote the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, the effects on children’s

“physical and mental health included weight loss, sleeplessness, nightmares, skin complaints and self-harm, depression and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder”.

It also cites, as did the noble Lord, more recent collaborative evidence from Australia. The Royal College of Psychiatrists warns of the likely damaging impact on child mental and physical health of

“the restriction of movement, lack of community exposure, and limited access to health and educational services”

associated with detention. The Independent Advisory Panel on Deaths in Custody, a non-departmental public body, has warned the Home Secretary that this is

“a group who are particularly vulnerable, including in respect of mental ill-health, self-harm, and suicide due to trauma caused by dislocation from family”.

It also emphasises

“the link between the indefinite nature of detention and feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness, which can increase the risk of suicidality”.

A group of people with lived experience of the asylum system who advise Doctors of the World have written an open letter to Peers which speaks of their particular concern about the detention of children and pregnant women, whose plight I think we will debate shortly. However, more generally on the basis of their experience they write that

“some of us start shaking when detention centres are mentioned, or crying when watching the news about this Bill”.

The Children’s Commissioner has expressed deep concern at the prospect of children being detained for significant periods of time. She has not been reassured by the government amendment—mentioned by the noble Baroness—which does not specify any time limits or cover children who are with their families. Can the Minister tell us what steps will be taken to ensure that children are detained for as short a period as possible, as he assured us they would be? Also, what is his estimate of the numbers of children in detention as a result of this change of policy, in the absence of an impact assessment?

The Children’s Commissioner points out that Article 37 of the UNCRC is clear that children must be detained for as short a time as possible. UNICEF makes the point even more strongly, warning that the broad discretion on the detention of children provided by the Bill

“is not compatible with international standards”

and

“would not comply with the principle of the best interests of the child”.

Some, including the Committee on the Rights of the Child, have gone so far as to argue that Article 37 means that children should simply not be detained at all in an immigration context. Whether or not one accepts that interpretation, it is clear that the powers given to the Home Secretary in Clause 11 once again contravene a key international convention.

Although the Chief Inspector of Prisons’ report published yesterday, mentioned earlier by the noble Lord, Lord German, welcomed some improvements in the short-term holding facilities in Kent, it noted:

“Children were detained for far too long at all sites”.


During the previous six months:

“Detention records indicated that 337 children had been held in breach of the statutory 24-hour time limit”,


with one held for just over three days. It notes that some particularly vulnerable children were held for too long, giving the example of a 17 year-old girl with a 10 month-old baby—conceived, she said, following rape—who was held from 11.30 am and then overnight, for nearly 24 hours. If this is already happening, I dread to think what the situation will be like if Clause 10 reaches the statute book.

The incentives—pull factor—argument used by Ministers in their attempt to justify this retrograde policy would be laughable if the implications for children’s well-being and best interests were not so serious.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 59, 63, 64 and 67. I believe these are measured and proportionate steps to preserve existing safeguards around child detention—safeguards introduced by a Conservative Government.

Child detention must only ever be a last resort. That is a clear requirement, as many have said, of Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which also requires that detention be for the shortest appropriate time. Article 22 requires states to ensure that children seeking refugee status receive “protection and humanitarian assistance”. I hope and believe that these principles will be recognised and shared across your Lordships’ Committee.

There is strong evidence that the mental and physical health impacts of detention on children are severe. For refugee children, often escaping from traumatic circumstances, detention can further compound their trauma. Detention separates children from their peers, interrupts their education, exposes them to violence and denies them the safe, loving and supportive environment that children need to develop and thrive, and which is their right. Detention undermines parental authority and strains the parent-child relationship. This lasts well beyond the period of detention itself. Even short spells in detention can cause trauma and long-term mental health risks for children. When we detain refugee children, we should know that we are making their future lives and integration into society even harder.

My noble friends in government may have said that they recognise these impacts and do not want to detain children, but I am afraid that, as written, this is precisely what the Bill will do. My noble friend Lady Mobarik has explained the existing limits and how the Bill would change them. To reiterate: the detention powers in the Bill would apply to all migrant children and could see them routinely detained in any location for an indefinite period. This is simply not in line with the principle of child detention as a limited last resort.

We know that the immigration system is overstretched. As such, we can reliably expect every time limit and latitude granted to immigration officials by the Bill to be exploited to the full. Therefore, we must make certain that children’s rights and the limits on their detention are guaranteed in law. It is not good enough for my noble friend the Minister to say that child detention should be exceptional. The law must make it exceptional.

There are some problems which new laws can solve. There are other times when new laws will have no effect—or such serious side-effects that they are entirely disproportionate to the problem. If the Government do not feel that they can regulate immigration and asylum without locking up children for extended periods, that is indicative of a broken system. It is not a problem that is resolved by detaining children.

There is no evidence that the introduction of the existing limits on child detention have led to an increase in illegal immigration. There is no reason to think that removing these limits will improve the Government’s ability to control immigration and prevent the dangerous channel crossings. Exposing children to greater risk of harm, with no guarantee of preventing harm, is not a step we should accept.

The existing limits on child detention, brought in after careful consideration by the Conservative Government, meet the practical need that sadly exists. They ensure that detention is strictly controlled and time-limited, as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires. They mitigate the harm that detention causes. They make detention the last resort. That is what we must retain, and I urge noble Lords to support these amendments.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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I remember well when the detention of children was ended by legislation. I visited Cedars, the property—I do not like the term “facility” in this connection—near Gatwick that was used for two or three days before the removal of families who were going to be removed and were at the end of the argument, if you like. What was particularly notable to me were the facilities for the children, and the support that was given to them, who were accommodated there for a very short time, to help them prepare to go back to a country that they may or may not have remembered—indeed, that they may not have ever lived in. It suffused the whole place and was really admirable. You only had to walk into the place to see the equipment and toys, and the information that was set out, as well as the work being done by social workers to support the children concerned. There were no families there at that point; the property used to allow visitors only on days when it knew that no families would be in residence.

I have a number of amendments in this group. The first is Amendment 59A, which seeks to probe the “discretion” given to the Secretary of State in making regulations regarding the detention of unaccompanied children. Amendment 64A is a similar amendment. The reason for my tabling this amendment is to understand whether the envisaged discretion can be exercised to extend the circumstances specified in an earlier part of the clause or to narrow those circumstances.

I discovered a possible answer to this when looking at my next amendment, Amendment 61B, which would provide for the affirmative procedure. Amendment 64C is a similar amendment. I tabled this amendment out of pure instinct that there should be an affirmative procedure, not a negative one. I subsequently discovered that the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, with considerably more logic than I bring to the matter, recommended the affirmative procedure. I quote its report:

“The Memorandum explains that the negative procedure is considered appropriate because ‘the effect of any regulations is to limit the circumstances in which an unaccompanied child may be detained or the duration of detention for the purposes of removal’. In our view, this explanation is misconceived”.


That is very much committee speak for, “We really disagree”. The report went on:

“The regulation making power can only be viewed as a limiting power from the perspective of the Bill as introduced into the House of Commons which conferred an unfettered power to detain unaccompanied children”.


However, amendments were then made in the Commons, so

“no such unfettered power of detention exists in the Bill as introduced into the House of Lords. It is the regulations alone which will specify the circumstances in which unaccompanied children will be capable of being detained, in the absence of which there is no power to detain such children. Given the importance and sensitivity of the subject matter, we consider that the affirmative resolution procedure should apply”.

As I say, the committee approached this with considerably more logic and power than I was planning to bring to it.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Helic Excerpts
Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab)
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My Lords, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. The report, as others have mentioned, came out early today, and many noble Lords will not yet have had the opportunity to read it. Evidence was taken from many people who had in-depth experience and who were experts in these different fields.

On modern-day slavery, we heard from the former anti-slavery commissioner, Professor Dame Sara Thornton, who, as noble Lords know, had been a very senior police officer and the lead police officer in the area of Oxfordshire. She made it very clear that she was horrified at the implications of the Bill, saying:

“It basically denies those who are trafficked to this country and arrive irregularly any modern slavery protections … It will be the victims who are punished, not those who are trafficking them”.


She says that as someone with huge experience. While we do not have a modern-day slavery commissioner at the moment, she is our last one, so her voice of experience should be heard and appreciated by this House.

We also heard from the Salvation Army, which the Committee will know is, again, the lead organisation dealing with modern-day slavery. Similarly, in its testimony to us, it said that

“removing people … will deliver vulnerable people back into the hands of the criminal gangs who have exploited them. This does nothing to break the cycle of exploitation”.

We really have to listen to that. I know that there are people who do not believe in expertise, but we have to listen to those with real expertise. I agree that this whole set of recommendations in the Bill is unacceptable, inhumane and unworkable.

The noble Lord, Lord Weir, suggested that we are being cynical if we think that this is performance politics. I am afraid that that is the view held by noble Lords all around this Committee, not just on the Opposition Benches. There are many Members on the Conservative Benches who know that the Bill is really the last shout of a failing Government. One said to me that it was the last card in the pack. Just think about what that means: that, when you are foundering, you turn to immigration and make a dog-whistle piece of legislation in the ugliest of ways.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 86 in particular, but I fully endorse other efforts to preserve protections for victims of modern slavery.

As I said at Second Reading, and as many noble Lords have warned, the provision in the Bill to remove modern slavery protections from migrants targets the very people most at risk of being trafficked. It would reduce the number of people coming forward with evidence and make prosecutions harder. My noble friend the Minister reaffirmed then the Government’s commitment to tackling the horrendous crime of modem slavery and to supporting victims, but I am afraid that the Bill still falls short.

There are strong similarities to cases of sexual and gender-based violence. We know that survivors’ testimony is crucial for accountability, but, without proper support and good systems in place, survivors are not, and do not feel, able to give evidence. The Government say that, where absolutely necessary and where they are co-operating with the police, victims will be able to stay in the United Kingdom while their case proceeds, but I fear that this sets the bar way too high. By the time it becomes apparent that a survivor’s evidence is necessary, it will often be too late. Survivors need the time and space to process what they have been through and to prepare themselves for coming forward with evidence, speaking about what they have experienced and going through the justice system. It can be an intense and daunting process which requires determination from the survivor and engagement and support from prosecutors. That is much harder to deliver remotely and why a recovery period is so crucial. It allows the time to reflect, to receive support and to rebuild trust, which may have been shattered by the experience of being trafficked, but without which they cannot work with the police or prosecutors.

There are parallels with the situation of migrant victims of domestic abuse. We have ample evidence that the fear or threat of deportation is used by abusers to control their victims and that it prevents victims from seeking help or escaping an abusive situation. Similarly, if survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking believe that reporting the crime that they have experienced will mean immediate deportation, trafficked persons are far less likely to come forward in the first place. The net result of that might end up being more people suffering and less control over migration.

The support that survivors of trafficking are able to receive during a recovery period can also reduce their risk of being trafficked in future. Trafficked persons are often highly vulnerable. Returning them to their home country without support may not solve the problem and risks putting them back into the cycle and seeing them trafficked again. A recovery period can be crucial to ending dependency, allowing survivors to rebuild their lives—that, in itself, is a blow to the human traffickers’ model.

I really hope that my noble friends in government will feel able to look again at this. I do not think that removing the protection against modern slavery will have the impact for which they hope; I fear that it will make the situation worse rather than better. If we want to prevent dangerous illegal migration, we need to tackle the traffickers who facilitate it. Targeting their victims will only make that harder. By ensuring the recovery period, Amendment 86 would allow survivors the space and cover to receive the support they need and, in doing so, would make successful prosecutions more likely and escape from modern slavery easier. I hope my noble friend the Minister will be able to support it.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Home Office

Illegal Migration Bill

Baroness Helic Excerpts
Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB)
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My Lords, I support Amendments 128B, 128C and 131, which all deal with an issue which is crucial to any overall approach by this country to remake its broken asylum policy. Without that, you do not have an overall approach; you just have a piece-by-piece approach. All that was spelled out during the debate tabled by the most reverend Primate in December last year, and many Members of the House spoke in support of these safe and legal routes as one part of an overall solution. That is what I am doing today by supporting these amendments. At the time, the Minister who replied to that debate did not respond on the point of safe and legal routes, nor did the Government respond in the legislation we are discussing today, which they tabled quite soon after that debate. That was a pity: it was an opportunity missed.

Now, in the course of the proceedings in another place, the Government have put in the Bill some language about safe and legal routes. I welcome that—it is a shift of policy, as the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, said, back to policy which we practised before 2011—but I am sorry to say that the drafting currently in the Bill is really quite inadequate, not only because of the cap, which is arbitrary and is liable to frustrate the objective being pursued, but because actually there is no obligation on the Government, if the Bill passes in its current form, with some reference to safe and legal routes, to arrive at the implementation of such safe and legal routes. Amendments 128B, 128C and 131 are all aimed to arrive at that point: where there is an obligation on the Government. The Bill imposes a lot of obligations on the Government, many of which I and others in this House have said are contrary to our international obligations. This would be in total conformity to our international obligations, and I therefore argue that it needs to be mandatory now, not awaiting some mythical moment when the last boat has been stopped. That is not going to work; it is simply not going to happen. The wording in the Bill at the moment leaves enormous opportunities for a Government who do not wish to proceed to give effect to safe and legal routes to escape. That is why I support the amendments.

I hope that the Minister will finally lay to rest the argument that the UNHCR can do all this on our behalf. As the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, has said—and others have said—reading out the text that the UNHCR has issued, that is simply not the case. I hope also that the Minister will feel able on this occasion to answer the question that has been put so many times and which I now put again: what safe and legal route exists for an Iranian woman fleeing for her life from the persecution of an extremely unpleasant regime that has hanged quite a lot of people and persecuted many others? What safe and legal route does this Iranian woman have to apply for asylum in this country? I believe myself that the answer is a very short, one-word answer: none. I would like to hear from the Minister whether he disagrees with that. If he does disagree, I would be delighted. Perhaps he would then, on the public record, show us what such a woman could do to achieve a safe and legal application, which is what she deserves.

My final point is that this all fits with our relationship with the other countries of Europe, which are also struggling to shape their migration policy to make it more apt for the circumstances of today. They are at the point of agreeing a new set of migration policies. Everyone who has looked at this—and I think the Home Office believes this too, because that is why the Interior Minister of France is in this country today, talking to the Home Secretary—acknowledges that the only way that we are going to get to grips with this is if we are able to work together right across the board. Whether it is on prevention, police work, intelligence or handling the scale of the problem, we need to work together with other European countries. That is, after all, where all these asylum seekers come from when they come illegally and where some of them would come from if we made it possible for them to come legally. At the heart of getting an effective policy is the need to have one where we can work 100% hand-in-hand with the other European countries. I hope that the Minister, when he replies to this really rather crucial set of amendments, can give us a full-scale response to these wider issues. I am sorry if it is thought at some stage that some parts of this debate have been repetitious. This is not repetitious; it is necessary.

Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I am pleased to support Amendment 128C in the names of my noble friends Lady Stroud, Lord Kirkhope and Lady Mobarik. The very first clause of the Bill states that its purpose is to,

“prevent and deter unlawful migration, and in particular migration by unsafe and illegal routes”.

This amendment seeks to support that aim by requiring the Secretary of State to set out additional safe and legal routes in keeping with the Prime Minister’s ambition, as stated in the House of Commons last December, to “create more” safe and legal routes. The amendment leaves significant discretion for the Secretary of State to determine the size and scope of these routes, and I hope that the Government will recognise that. It complements the existing clauses of the Bill that require the Secretary of State to report on what routes exist. I believe it is entirely in line with the Government’s own aims and ambitions for this Bill.

In particular, the amendment addresses one of the key pressures that drives unsafe and illegal migration: the fact that, for the vast majority of refugees and asylum seekers, there are no routes deemed safe and legal by the Government. As it stands, there are routes, as others have said, for Ukrainians, for the British nationals (overseas) from Hong Kong, for select Afghans, and for a few—a very few—under UNHCR resettlement, though there is no guarantee of being sent to the United Kingdom under resettlement. For many people in desperate circumstances, there is simply no safe and legal route available for claiming asylum in the United Kingdom; yet there will always be people forced from their homes who want to seek safety—and, in particular, safety in the United Kingdom, perhaps because of family or historical ties, or perhaps because of their admiration for this country, something that we ought to be proud of. We should also recognise our obligation under the refugee convention to allow people to claim asylum in the United Kingdom. The question is whether we provide a safe method where we can carefully monitor—and indeed, as per the Bill, control—the numbers coming, or whether we criminalise everything and everyone, force everything underground and push people into unsafe routes.

There are more refugees and displaced persons around the world than ever before. The number has doubled in the past decade. Only a very small proportion of them seek to come to the United Kingdom. However, this is a global crisis that is likely to get worse rather than better. Climate change risks driving millions of new displacements. This is not something that one country can hope to solve on its own. As it stands, three-quarters of refugees are hosted by low- and middle-income countries. If they start to follow the approach set out in our Bill, the Government really will have a migration crisis on their hands.

Illegal Migration Bill Debate

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Department: Scotland Office
Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 5 in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton. I speak on behalf of my noble friend Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate, who put his name to the amendment but regrets that he cannot be here with us today. This amendment is firmly in the Conservative tradition of strengthening, not undermining, the international rule of law. I remind noble Lords, and especially my noble friend, that Conservative Governments were instrumental in creating the first four conventions listed in the amendment.

Regrettably, the precise legal position of the Bill and its compliance with our international obligations—with this Conservative legacy—remains unclear. The Government say they believe it is compliant. A great number of others, include some of the bodies tasked with implementing these conventions, say that it is not. What is clear is that disobeying or disapplying international agreements which bear the name of the United Kingdom is not acceptable. If the Government are unhappy with their international obligations, they are free to seek to renegotiate them, but simply ignoring our international legal commitments in pursuit of domestic expediency puts us in very bad company.

As your Lordships’ House has repeatedly reminded the Government over the last few years, if we hope to negotiate or originate future international agreements on anything from trade to artificial intelligence, and to continue to play our historic role as a creator and driver of international law, we cannot breach our existing agreements. Who would trust us then? We rightly argue for the rule of law in our international relationships and expect it to be followed by other countries; we must follow it ourselves.

Lord Bishop of Chelmsford Portrait The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford
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My Lords, I support Amendment 5 also tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti. In Committee a comprehensive debate took place, during which different cases were made by distinguished lawyers across the House about the place of international law as it relates to our domestic lawmaking. Notwithstanding the different interpretations, I wish to reflect on the moral imperative for us to take seriously the commitments we have made in past decades. Those commitments have value in themselves, but they have also come to define the country that we are and aspire to be. They are part of why we are trusted by much of the international community and held in high regard.

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The reality is that, whatever the concerns many of us have about the Bill as a whole, to include human trafficking and modern slavery and to ignore the gains previously made by the Government is to take us in completely the wrong direction. If victims of human trafficking are to be disregarded and simply deported the moment they are found—even those who are providing assistance to the police—prosecutions and, above all, the pressure on human traffickers will be reduced. What will be the end result? The most logical answer is that human trafficking will increase. Indeed, we will be giving a boon to human traffickers if this Bill goes through unamended. If we take prima facie the purpose of the Bill as described by the Government, it is entirely counterproductive to its supposed intentions. So we need these amendments to go through, and I therefore commend them to the House.
Baroness Helic Portrait Baroness Helic (Con)
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My Lords, I support Amendment 95 and the consequential Amendments 99, 101 and 104 in the name of my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge, who unfortunately cannot be in his place today. He has asked me to speak on his behalf and has made it clear that if he were here, and if he could not find agreement with the Government, he would test the opinion of the House.

This amendment has been slightly modified since Committee in order to ensure parity for victims across the whole of the United Kingdom, including Scotland and Northern Ireland. The core intention remains the same: to preserve the existing recovery period for victims of modern slavery.

I emphasise one point in particular: removing modern slavery protections will not help stop the boats. In fact, it will make reducing illegal migration harder. Many victims of modern slavery, often through no fault of their own, have come illegally under the terms of this Bill, even if not necessarily by boat. The protections which give them the space to escape from their exploiters will be removed. This is bad in itself, but the really relevant point for the Government is that, as a result of removing those protections, prosecutions will become harder, as others have pointed out. The position of the people traffickers and criminal gangs who bring people into the United Kingdom illegally and hold them in modern slavery will be strengthened. The core purpose of this Bill—to prevent illegal migration—will be undermined.

The evidence is clear: for a successful prosecution, support for victims must come before engagement with the police and courts system. As drafted, the Bill inverts that, setting a high bar for co-operation before any person can be considered for an exemption from immediate deportation. In Committee, when asked by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, about the effect of removing victims of modern slavery to another country on the likelihood of their co-operation with prosecutions, my noble friend the Minister said:

“One would hope that a victim of trafficking would want to facilitate the prosecution of their traffickers”. [Official Report, 12/6/23, col. 1705.]


Most victims do, but they need support in order to do that. They need trust in the system. Threatening them with immediate deportation is not the way to build that trust, and I am afraid that I do not share my noble friend’s confidence that prosecutors will be just as easily able to work with victims in Rwanda as they can with victims in the United Kingdom.

These amendments do not confer a permanent right to settlement or residence in the United Kingdom on modern slavery victims. They retain the existing 30-day recovery period and provision for proven victims to stay in the United Kingdom only at the Secretary of State’s discretion—for example, to support prosecutions. That is not really an exclusion or exemption of the sort my noble friend the Minister says will fatally undermine the Bill, but it can create the space needed for victims of modern slavery to receive the support they need to escape the cycle of abuse and begin co-operating with the police. I hope the Government can recognise the benefits of this and re-think their position.

Lord Coaker Portrait Lord Coaker (Lab)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to rise to support many of the amendments in this group, but in particular Amendment 12. I thank my noble friend Lord Hunt, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for moving such an important amendment.

I start by saying that, as a proud Labour politician, I am the first to recognise the phenomenal achievement, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, pointed out, of the Conservative Government in passing the Modern Slavery Act. That is important, and he pointed out the cross-party nature of that. That is why it is so bewildering that we have a Conservative Government driving forward this legislation.

Notwithstanding that, Amendment 12 goes to the heart of the various amendments. It is important to reiterate the explanatory note to my noble friend’s amendment, which simply seeks

“to amend the Bill so that potential and recognised victims of trafficking will not be detained or removed before they get the opportunity to submit an application to the NRM and have it duly considered”.

That seems a perfectly reasonable thing to do, but of course, under this Bill, everybody who arrives irregularly —primarily by small boat, as far as the Government are concerned—is automatically excluded. That inevitably means that victims or potential victims of modern slavery and trafficking will be caught by the legislation and their needs will not be met.

We have talked about evidence. Helpfully, on Monday the impact assessment was at last published. The Government recognise the draconian nature of these provisions, as they have put in their own sunset clause, and they say they are doing this because the system is being gamed. On page 24, the impact assessment states:

“For context, of the 83,236 people that arrived in the UK on small boats between 1 January 2018 and 31 December 2022, 7 per cent (6,210 people) were referred to the NRM”.


Of course, as was made clear, that 7% of those 83,000 were referred by government-approved officials. They were not necessarily then deemed to have conclusive grounds; they were referred in order to have their situation considered.

That is the issue Amendment 12 seeks to address. It does not say there are not sometimes people who apply who should not, but that the purpose of the Modern Slavery Act is to ensure that victims have the right to have their case heard, to be supported where necessary, and to not be removed from the country during that process. Amendment 12 is therefore perfectly reasonable and if my noble friend chooses to test the opinion of the House, I hope that many of us will support it, because it is a simple but very important amendment.