Friday, 31 July 2015

Modern Slavery ~ a modern scourge

Exploitation of human beings is an age-old scourge and is certainly well and truly with us today as this short video illustrates all too well - Modern slavery is closer than you think.

"Modern slavery is a brutal form of organised crime in which people are treated as commodities and exploited for criminal gain. The true extent of modern slavery in the United Kingdom, and indeed globally, is unknown. Modern slavery, in particular human trafficking, is an international problem and victims may have entered the United Kingdom legally, on forged documentation or clandestinely, or they may be British citizens living in the United Kingdom. Modern slavery takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude, and victims come from all walks of life. Victims are often unwilling to come forward to law enforcement or public protection agencies, not seeing themselves as victims, or fearing further reprisals from their abusers. In particular, there may be particular social and cultural barriers to men identifying themselves as victims. Victims may also not always be recognised as victims of modern slavery by those who come into contact with them" - (Extract from Explanatory Notes to the Modern Slavery Act 2015).

International concern about exploitation has resulted in a number of significant actions:  the UN Palermo Protocol 2000;  the Council of Europe Convention on Trafficking in Human Beings (Warsaw 2005) and the European Union's Directive 2011/36/EU.

In the UK, the Modern Slavery Act 2015 (mostly) came into force on 31st July 2015 - Explanatory Notes and Commencement Order.  The following selection of articles make for interesting reading and they draw attention to some of the perceived deficiencies in the legislation.  Examination of the considerable amount of legal detail must await another occasion but the Act is to be welcomed as a major step in combating this serious problem. 

Articles etc:

a) Published before Royal Assent to the Bill:

Parliament - Joint Committee on the Modern Slavery Bill - Report dated 3rd April 2014

Oxford Human Rights Hub, Peter Carter QC 2nd December 2014 - Modern Slavery Bill - A Brief Review

Human Rights Watch 22nd February 2015 - Amend the Modern Slavery Bill - this called for removal of the "tied-visa" scheme.  The government has not done this despite the possibility that tied-visas are locking individuals to their employers.  The Joint Committee in Parliament also recommended reversal of changes made to the "Overseas Domestic Worker Visa" - see Conclusions and Recommendations para 51.  Reversal would "at the very least allow organisations and agencies to remove a worker from an abusive employment situation immediately. It would also enable the abuse to be reported to the police without fear that the victim would be deported as a result." 

b) Published after Royal Assent:

A short summary of the main provisions of the Act may be seen at Modern Slavery Act by Kevin Molloy.

UK government 26th March 2015 - Historic law to end modern slavery passed

E-International Relations 8th April 2015 - Britain's Modern Slavery Act: World-leading or a timid start?

LexisNexis - In House - 17th April 2015 - A Modern Slavery Act for the UK: the uncertainty for business continues

Halsbury's Law Exchange 1st May 2015 - Modern Slavery Act 2015: the first steps in the right direction

Guide to the Palermo Protocol 

Other links:

Crown Prosecution Service - Human trafficking, smuggling and slavery 

UK Government 31st July - Guidance on Orders under Part 2 of the Modern Slavery Act

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