Modern Slavery and Immigration: Comms and Language Guide

Modern Slavery and Immigration: Communications and Language Guide

This guide has been produced to mirror the Appropriate language: Child Sexual and/or Criminal Exploitation Guidance for Professionals.

Disempowering language and images can create stereotypical narratives around modern slavery and mean that professionals only recognise the most extreme modern slavery abuses.

Adapting language can help professionals to understand modern slavery as a safeguarding and abuse issue as well as a crime, and something that is rooted in structural harms like poverty, austerity, immigration and housing policies, and inequality. Using more appropriate language can also improve the likelihood of survivor engagement with statutory agencies, particularly related to criminal justice processes.

How to use this guide

This document can be used by professionals when discussing the exploitation of adults, including when escalating intelligence and delivering training. A word version can also be accessed here

The document can be referenced at the beginning of strategy meetings, multi-agency meetings, or other settings where professionals might be discussing adults who are at risk of exploitation.

Appropriate language: context

Modern slavery

Modern slavery is the umbrella term under the Modern Slavery Act 2015 which encompasses slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and human trafficking.

These definitions of modern slavery all involve, in some way, the coercion of someone for the purpose of some type of exploitation or benefit to the abuser. This might be criminal exploitation (including cannabis cultivation, county lines, acquisitive crime, etc), sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, domestic servitude, and so on.

Being subject to modern slavery may mean that a person is made to undertake activities that are subject to criminal justice penalties (e.g. criminal exploitation) or may be moved across a border and therefore end up in a position where they have insecure immigration status.

Anyone subject to modern slavery has been subject to a crime, and as such should be prioritised as a victim first and foremost.

Immigration status

Many victims of modern slavery and other abuses may not have immigration status at the point at which they are subject to a crime, and instead have ‘insecure immigration status’.

Insecure immigration status acts as a major vulnerability to abuse and exploitation. Evidence has shown that migrants with insecure immigration status often feel unable to report cases of abuse and exploitation for fear that government authorities will prioritise their immigration status over the harm they have experienced. Abusive employers and perpetrators of domestic abuse then use migrants’ insecure status to threaten, coerce, control and trap them in abusive and exploitative situations.

As a result, relevant authorities are unable to prevent and address serious crime, like forced labour, servitude and domestic abuse, since they cannot access valuable intelligence needed to identify and prosecute abusers and exploiters. This situation results in migrants being denied safety and justice, and offenders going unpunished and remaining free to abuse others, creating a significant threat to public safety

With legal advice and support, victims may be supported to regularise their immigration status (for example, through the asylum process, through Discretionary Leave to Remain following a positive decision from the NRM, and so on). However, these processes should not impact on their right to justice as a victim of a crime.

Asylum seekers

In the UK, an asylum seeker is someone who has arrived in the country and asked the UK government for refugee protection.

There is no legal route into the UK for the specific purpose of claiming asylum, and no way to claim asylum from outside the UK. Therefore, people seeking asylum often have to use irregular and unsafe methods of entry in order to reach the UK and make an asylum claim. The Refugee Convention recognises that people fleeing persecution may have to use irregular means to escape and claim asylum elsewhere.

If you claim asylum after you arrive in the UK, then the way you made it into the country is irrelevant and is not illegal. The right to seek asylum is a legal entitlement that we all share, and there’s no law that requires you to claim asylum in the first safe country you reach. You can claim asylum anywhere you feel safe.

Appropriate language: alternative phrasing for communications

Slave Survivor / victim / exploited person / person experiencing modern slavery / adult / child
Modern slavery is a blight / scourge / stain Modern slavery is a hugely complex issue. As with any form of violence in our communities, other vulnerabilities can exacerbate the likelihood of modern slavery, including homelessness, government policy, the lack of support structures, and the impacts of austerity.
There are over 40 million slaves in the worldDue to underreporting, it is unlikely that the statistics will ever be able to fully represent how this issue plays out, or how it truly affects our diverse community.

Underreporting may be due to: survivors not feeling safe to report their experiences due to the threat of immigration enforcement; a lack of safe reporting spaces; a lack of emergency accommodation and specialist support.
We will end modern slaveryWe are seeking to reduce the threat, risk and harm of modern slavery
Illegal immigrant / alien / illegal Insecure immigration status
Not allowed to be hereMay need legal support to understand rights, entitlements and options
Fighting-age men and boysMen and boys, potentially at risk of exploitation
Illegal entry / they need to use legal routesThere are no legal routes into the UK for the specific purpose of claiming asylum. The Refugee Convention makes it clear that if someone claims asylum then the route of entry is irrelevant.

Further reading