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UK Anti-Slavery at the Border: Humanitarian Opportunism and the Challenge of Victim Consent to Assistance

Hadjimatheou, Katerina and Lynch, Jennifer (2018) 'UK Anti-Slavery at the Border: Humanitarian Opportunism and the Challenge of Victim Consent to Assistance.' European Journal of Criminology. ISSN 1477-3708

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The UK’s Modern Slavery Strategy, launched in 2014, gives Border Force Officers a key role as anti-slavery first responders, identifying and supporting victims at the border. Yet, while an estimated 94% of victims of human trafficking cross UK borders, in 2016 less than 3% of victim referrals were made at the border. This article draws on a series of in-depth interviews with a specialised Safeguarding and Anti-Trafficking team within the UK Border Force to shed light on this discrepancy and, in doing so, to take forward critical debates about the coherence of humanitarian anti-slavery policy and the consistency of its ambitions with a continued prioritization by governments of security policy and immigration control. The paper furthers two key arguments. First, that current policy around anti-slavery first response at the border is grounded in a rationale of ‘humanitarian opportunism’, which states that borders are sites of unique opportunity to identify and assist victims of trafficking, and that Border Force Officers therefore have a humanitarian duty to identify and assist victims. Second, that the humanitarian opportunity is in reality far more restricted in practice than the policy rhetoric suggests, a fact which goes some way to explaining the very small numbers of those identified as trafficked and assisted at UK borders. Two key challenges to successful identification and support are identified. The first is EU freedom of movement, which effectively exempts European citizens from vulnerability screening by Border Force Officers. The second is the requirement that Border Force Officers obtain written consent from those identified as trafficked to being labelled a victim of crime before they can be offered support. The paper puts forward some suggestions for how these challenges could be addressed for the benefit of those trafficked.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Slavery, Trafficking, Borders, Humanitarianism, Victims
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculty of Social Sciences > Sociology, Department of
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 04 Dec 2018 12:35
Last Modified: 27 Feb 2020 16:15

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