Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner paper: The EU Settlement Scheme and points-based immigration system
16th February 2021
The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, has today published a briefing paper outlining potential risks of exploitation related to the EU Settlement Scheme and the UK’s new points-based immigration system.
In February 2020 the Home Secretary committed to protecting individuals from criminal exploitation and unscrupulous employers when she announced the new points-based immigration system.
Traffickers are swift to adapt and will seek to abuse new arrangements. It is essential that the potential risks of the EU Settlement Scheme and the points-based system are identified and mitigated. Officials need to listen to concerns about unintended consequences, monitor impact and take mitigating action.
Read the paper - Protecting individuals from exploitation by criminal traffickers and unscrupulous employers: Identifying and mitigating risks in the EU Settlement Scheme and the UK’s new points-based immigration system
The paper sets out how the EU Settlement Scheme and points-based immigration system have the potential to increase vulnerability to modern slavery:
Concerns associated with the EU Settlement Scheme
• Victims and survivors of modern slavery may not have full evidence and documentation required to apply for settled status
• Lack of clarity around late applications to the EUSS and communication on the need to convert pre-settled status to settled status
• Criminal convictions and the Modern Slavery Act 2015’s Section 45 statutory defence
• Lack of physical documentation proving EUSS status
Concerns associated with the points-based immigration system
• Risks around the visitor route and continued demand for low skilled labour
• Risks around the skilled worker route including recruitment fees, artificially inflated salaries and clawback of money by employers
• Quality and compliance of sponsors, effective labour market enforcement and communication of migrant workers’ rights
Dame Sara Thornton, UK Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, said:
“The government set out its commitment to protect individuals from criminal exploitation and unscrupulous employers when the new points-based system was announced.
“Both the EU Settlement Scheme and the new immigration system has the potential to increase vulnerability to exploitation, trafficking and modern slavery.
“I have raised these issues with both ministers and officials. It is essential that risks are monitored and mitigated in order to protect the most vulnerable from exploitation and abuse.”
Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said:
“Those who abuse and exploit other human beings for profit will always try to find ways to abuse and exploit schemes and systems which are ostensibly intended to protect people. Human traffickers are incredibly adept at exploiting loopholes and finding new ways to make money from the misery of others.
“The UK has the opportunity, with its new immigration system, to put additional protections in place for victims and potential victims of modern slavery. But there are also significant risks that the system will be abused and result in more suffering.
“The Commissioner’s report lays out those risks and I urge ministers to take them seriously and do all they can to mitigate them.”
Rt Hon Baroness Butler-Sloss GBE, Co-Chair of the APPG on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, said:
“The government is committed to supporting the most vulnerable in our society and passed the Modern Slavery Act more than five years ago.”
“Today, the EU Settlement Scheme and new points-based system have significantly changed the rules for Europeans working in this country and we must ensure that these changes do not increase vulnerability to slavery.”
The Rt Revd Dr Alastair Redfern, Chair of The Clewer Initiative, said:
“Victims and survivors of modern slavery are people like you and me who have been cruelly exploited and abused.
“It is vitally important that anyone at risk of exploitation is protected throughout the changes associated with the EU Settlement Scheme and the new immigration system.”