Meeting in Strasbourg this week, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has expressed deep concern over the United Kingdom’s Illegal Migration Bill and its lack of compliance with core elements of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
GRETA emphasised that the new legislation would constitute a significant step backwards in the fight against human trafficking and modern slavery in the United Kingdom, and risk undoing many of the country’s significant achievements in this area, by making it harder to identify victims, prosecute traffickers and combat human trafficking.
Under the Bill, nearly all people who arrive in the United Kingdom in breach of immigration control – and who do not come directly from a country where their life and liberty are threatened by reason of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion – would be detained and removed from the United Kingdom. This includes victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, who would be deemed to be a threat to public order because they have arrived in breach of immigration control and denied access to the protections they are legally entitled to.
GRETA stressed that, if adopted, the Bill would run contrary to the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Anti-trafficking Convention, to prevent human trafficking, and to identify and protect victims of trafficking, without discrimination.
Echoing the concerns raised by the UNHCR and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, GRETA therefore urges the United Kingdom to uphold its international obligations in combating human trafficking by reconsidering the relevant provisions of the Bill.