Theresa May Torches Government's Migration Crackdown

Former Tory prime minister says the controversial illegal migration bill will give "the traffickers another weapon to hold people in that slavery and exploitation".

Theresa May has warned the government’s crackdown on migration will create more victims of modern slavery as ministers attempt to deter people from crossing the English Channel.

The former prime minister been joined by former leader Iain Duncan Smith in objecting to the illegal migration bill based on its potential to fuel human trafficking.

May, a long-serving home secretary who had a reputation for her hardline approach to immigration, said the controversial proposed legislation will give “the traffickers another weapon to hold people in that slavery and exploitation”.

The MP described an amendment tabled by ministers as a “slap in the face”.

Temporary protection against removal from the UK is currently given to suspected victims of modern slavery or human trafficking while their case is considered.

But the bill removes this protection for those judged to have entered the UK illegally.

It contains an exception for people co-operating with a criminal investigation, but the government amendment adds it is not necessary for a person to be present in the UK to co-operate with such proceedings unless there are judged to be “compelling circumstances”.

May and Duncan Smith are behind a separate amendment seeking to protect victims of modern slavery in the UK from removal and being barred from returning.

May said the change also suggests those dealing with the bill “simply do not understand the nature of these crimes or the position of victims”.

The MP for Maidenhead said the government amendment will make it “much harder” to investigate and prosecute traffickers and slavedrivers given victims need to feel safe and have confidence in the authorities.

She said: “Sending victims back to their own country or a third country like Rwanda will simply, at best, make them feel less secure, and therefore less able or willing to give the evidence needed, and at worst will drive them back into the arms of the traffickers and slavedrivers.”

She added: “Modern slavery is the greatest human rights issue of our time. The approach in this bill, I believe, will have several ramifications. I believe it will consign victims to remain in slavery.

“The government will be ensuring that more people will stay enslaved and in exploitation as a result of this bill because it will give the slavedrivers, it will give the traffickers, another weapon to hold people in that slavery and exploitation, because it’ll be very easy to say to them, ‘Don’t even think about trying to escape from the misery of your life, from the suffering we’re subjecting you to because all the UK government will do is send you away and probably send you to Rwanda’.

“The modern slavery act gave hope to victims, this bill removes that hope. I genuinely believe that, if enacted as it is currently proposed, this bill will leave more people, more men, women and children, in slavery in the UK.”


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