I cry at how modern slavery victims are treated by UK now – Jess Phillips

A Labour MP said the difference in standards to how victims of modern slavery are treated nowadays in the UK has made her cry, as she criticised housing people on “an overcrowded barge” in Dorset.

Jess Phillips (pictured) recalled the care and detail that was put into the foundation of the Midlands’ first dedicated women’s refuge for victims of trafficking ahead of the Modern Slavery Act becoming law in 2015.

She spoke at the Centre for Social Justice on Tuesday, the same day the Bibby Stockholm accommodation barge arrived at Dorset’s Portland Port, where it will house asylum seekers.

Recalling the care taken in staying up at night to sew curtains for the Midlands’ refuge, she told those gathered: “My god, we took making a place of safety really seriously back then.

“I think now of victims of modern slavery, boarding an overcrowded barge in Portland in Dorset and I cry at the difference in standards to what we once aspired to and now what awaits people who have been beaten, imprisoned, terrified and sexually exploited.

“Who is sewing the curtains now?”

She described modern slavery as a crime “that is happening up and down our country, with British as well as foreign national men, women and children being forced into sex, labour and criminal activity, like growing cannabis or county lines drug dealing across the UK”.

She said it is “entrenched” in local communities and is “bringing harm to thousands of people each year – hundreds of thousands more than the data allows us to see”.

She added: “The government-funded support system for victims of slavery is failing. With many victims unable to access the support that they need.

“Those that the Government do support find themselves stuck for one and a half years on average waiting for a Government decision, whether they believe that person was trafficked or not.”

She branded the Illegal Migration Bill, which is now poised to become law, as “a trafficker’s dream, a tool for their control”.

“Traffickers are today showing their slaves images of where they will end up in detention on a mega barge, or deported home right back to those who trafficked them in the first place.”

Downing Street has defended the use of barges to house migrants, insisting it was a cheaper alternative to housing them in hotels.

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