We support the new clauses. As has been set out by the TUC and Focus on Labour Exploitation, it is essential that migrants are able to claim their rights at work. That means not being arrested for criminal offences when attempting to report abusive employers. Our labour market enforcement capacity is one of the weakest in Europe. We need to set high standards for wages and workers’ conditions, significantly improve our inspection capacity, and remove the offence of illegal working. This offence makes it less likely that people will come forward to the UK national referral for trafficking and modern slavery.
We know that many trafficking victims are already in immigration detention. In her evidence to us, Bella Sankey from Detention Action provided a powerful example of a Chinese woman who was a victim of trafficking. She was picked up at a brothel after a tip-off, but instead of being treated as a victim of modern-day slavery and trafficking, she was taken to a detention centre and held for six months. Clearly, many things went wrong at many stages of that woman’s journey through the immigration system, but removing the offence of illegal working would at least help to remove one barrier to her getting the help she needs.