A cross party letter from 14 parliamentarians, to Priti Patel MP, the Home Secretary, led by Professor the Lord McColl of Dulwich, addressing the situation currently faced by victims of modern slavery in the context of the Coronavirus.
We are writing to you because we are very concerned about the wellbeing of victims of modern slavery during the coronavirus pandemic.
You may be aware that last week a group of NGOs who are working with victims of modern slavery sent a letter to the Home Office to highlight the particularly distinctive challenges posed by COVID-19 to victims of modern slavery and to ask the Home Office to issue specific guidance for caring for victims at this time. This gave rise to a short email from the Home Office which sadly failed to engage with the very real issues raised and did not commit to producing guidance addressing the scenarios that had been set out.
We were disappointed at the response and the need for more action on this issue was brought home by a recent story in the Independent newspaper published on Thursday 26 March about a victim of modern slavery who was allegedly refused access to safe house accommodation because of a pre-existing lung condition. This emphasises the concerns that were raised last week that victims living in safe house accommodation or in asylum accommodation may not be able to self-isolate due to cramped living conditions.
We are also concerned that victims will be unable to access their support worker and receive financial assistance if they or the support worker have to self-isolate. This would mean that the support worker would be unable to deliver the cash instalment of financial support to the victim, leaving the victim vulnerable to destitution.
We hope that you agree that there urgently needs to be guidance about accommodating both existing and new victims to ensure that the safety and security of victims is upheld. As the Government has recently announced that rough sleepers will all be provided accommodation, it seems to us this measure should also be applied to victims of trafficking who do not access to appropriate accommodation.
Any guidance released should address the accommodation needs of victims, including if victims have to leave accommodation due to fears about the virus, and provision of accommodation to victims who contract COVID-19; the ongoing provision of a support worker where either the support worker or victim has the disease or has to self-isolate and the continued provision of financial support in either of these situations.
Without this guidance, we have real concerns that victims may be left destitute, homeless and vulnerable to re-trafficking, and not to mention at severe risk of contracting COVID-19.
Thank you for everything you are doing at this very difficult time.
Lord McColl of Dulwich
Lord Randall of Uxbridge
Lord Kennedy of Southwark
Lord Alton of Liverpool
Rt Hon Karen Bradley MP
Jess Philipps MP
Andrew Selous MP
Alex Norris MP
Derek Thomas MP
Sarah Champion MP
Alex Sobel MP
Munira Wilson MP