Why do I need to know about the Nationality and Borders Bill? 

Well-known as the ‘anti-refugee bill’, the new Nationality and Borders bill making its way through parliament has been widely criticised for the negative implications it has for refugees arriving in the UK.  

What is less widely discussed, however, is the impact of this bill on survivors of slavery and trafficking, but this is no less significant. 

You might think that a bill which impacts survivors or slavery will impact very few people... after all, slavery is a thing of the past, isn’t it?  

Unfortunately, that’s just not the case; slavery is a very modern problem. In fact, there are more slaves right now than at any point in history, and three times more than the number of slaves in the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries combined 

With 40 million slaves worldwide, and as many as 13,000 in the UK alone, the impact of this bill will affect many vulnerable people across the UK.  

Having just escaped the clutches of exploiters, slavery survivors have been subject to, often very harrowing, crimes. When we think about supporting victims of crime, we invariably think of them as innocent people who have been subjected to awful experiences through no fault of their own. That we should support them as they recover is never in question! 

However, the new bill threatens the support and protection of people who have been victims of the crimes of slavery and trafficking.  


What are some of the key ways in which the bill will affect how survivors of slavery and trafficking are treated? 

1. Survivors who came into the country through unconventional routes will be penalised  

By the very nature of trafficking, many people brought to this country as slaves did not come here out of choice. 

They, therefore, have absolutely no say in the route they take. Given that slavery is not legal, it is no surprise that a good percentage will have been smuggled in illegally.  

Despite all this, under the new bill survivors of slavery and trafficking brought to the country illegally can be refused protection, criminalised or even deported.  

2. There will be no protection for survivors who have no documents 

If you are a survivor of slavery and trafficking, you will be asked to provide your documentation in order to access protection and support under the new bill.  

However, survivors frequently don’t have their documents. 

Many exploiters will take people’s documents from them in order to control them and make them feel trapped. Other survivors will have been forced to flee their homes without their documents, while in some countries documentation isn’t given to residents at all.  

These are all completely understandable scenarios, and not something we feel should stand in the way of safeguarding survivors. However, the bill dictates that, in these cases, the government will refuse to protect survivors, leaving a huge number of people without the support they need to find safety and recover. 

3. If survivors were forced into crimes, though no choice of their own, they will get no support or protection 

Many people who are enslaved are forced to undertake criminal activity or groomed for the personal gain of their exploiters. Common examples of this include growing cannabis, selling drugs, prostitution and theft. 

As a result, many victims of slavery are wrongly identified as criminals. This is a real issue, and the bill will worsen the situation even further... 

Under the new bill, and despite the fact that we know victims are frequently forced to do things against their will, survivors of slavery will be disqualified from protection if they have been prosecuted for particular offenses.  

4. Survivors who are also under immigration control will face additional barriers 

If they are also going through the asylum process, for instance, survivors will be required to produce additional paperwork within a set timeframe in order to access support and protection. 

Expecting people who have just been through incredibly traumatic experiences to be able to meet a deadline seems unreasonable, and we fear that it means a lot of people won’t get the support they require. 

What’s more, studies suggest that trauma negatively affects recall, so expecting all survivors to be able to manage this in the immediate aftermath of their experiences will result in fewer people accessing protection.  


What can I do about this? 

If you share our concerns about this bill and believe that survivors of slavery should retain their rights to protection and support on their road to recovery, we invite you to act in support of survivors. Somes things you could do include: 

  1. Share information about this on social media: Your voice is powerful! We find that an awful lot of people have never even heard of the bill, so the more awareness you can help build around it the better. If you need somewhere to start, please follow us and share our content on Instagram and TikTok
  1. Write to your MP: it’s really important that the voices of survivors are heard when decisions that affect them are being mad. You can call on your MP to help make this happen. Our handy guide may be helpful in structuring your letter and knowing where to send it.