The Home Secretary’s immigration bill has been criticised by two watchdogs after Ms Patel, 49, unveiled changes which would mean any victim who has been sentenced to prison for more than 12 months anywhere in the world would be disqualified from modern slavery support in the UK. The Joint Committee on Human Rights has said the Nationality and Borders Bill could see Government support removed from survivors of exploitation based on criminal acts they have been compelled to carry out.
The bill, which recently passed through the House of Commons and is due to go through the House of Lords next month, has already been bashed by commissioners Dame Vera Baird and former chief constable Dame Sarah Thornton.
In a joint article for the Daily Telegraph, the pair claim the new bill brought forward by the Home Secretary will stop victims who may have been repeatedly raped or abused by criminals seeking help.
The two claim setting a time limit will deny law enforcement agencies access to evidence of exploitation as it may take months for victims to come forward with their traumatic ordeal.
They said: “This Bill risks us failing to identify victims of modern slavery and providing them with the protection they need.
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“Ultimately, this will only hinder us in stopping these criminals and preventing the victimisation of others.
“It is alarming that the Bill is set to degrade the existing protections for victims of modern slavery even while the Government works to improve support for others.”
The time limit will require all asylum applicants to reveal their claims within a set time period, after which will make all evidence presented null-and-void.
Dame Vera and Dame Sarah have expressed their concern the legislation runs “the very real risk of failing some of the most vulnerable victims of all – victims of modern slavery”.
Harriet Harman, chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, said: “We are concerned that there is a lack of clarity in this bill that could instead see victims prosecuted, while the criminal gangs evade punishment.
“The bill must be there to support victims in coming forward, not add further barriers that needlessly throw doubt on their character or remove support based on criminal acts they have been compelled to do.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The Government is committed to tackling the heinous crime of modern slavery, ensuring that victims are provided with the support they need to begin rebuilding their lives and that those responsible are prosecuted.
“The Nationality and Borders Bill will go further than ever before in terms of putting victims’ rights into law, including providing clarity on their entitlement to a recovery period, which will be tailored to their personal needs.
“It is vital our broken immigration system is fixed, and our New Plan for Immigration will ensure we can stop the criminal practices of those who abuse it.”