Important wins for child rights as the House of Lords pushes back on Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Bill with five major changes at report stage ECPAT UK PRESS RELEASE Last night’s Nationality and Borders Bill debate at report stage in the House of Lords saw significant wins for children’s rights as peers voted to prioritise child protection and mitigate damaging proposals on modern slavery and assessments of children’s ages in the Bill. As drafted, the Bill would reverse hard won rights and protections for child victims of modern slavery, but the five amendments successfully voted through by peers aim to exempt children from the Bill’s more harmful proposals, and ensure decision-making is based on children’s best interests. Peers who voted through these amendments and campaigners across the anti-slavery sector will now call on MPs to uphold these changes when the Bill is sent back to the House of Commons, or risk putting children in the UK at greater risk for trafficking, exploitation and abuse. Age assessments will be based on international legal principles, setting out an impartial and fair process for children Children will not be penalised for missing deadlines on disclosing trauma and abuse Children will not be excluded from protection if they have committed offences as a result of their exploitation Support and immigration leave to remain will be delivered for all confirmed victims of modern slavery, as well as ensuring that immigration decisions for child victims are made according to their best interests as the only standard Children will be protected by exemptions from the most harmful proposals in Part 5 of the Bill, retaining the current broader identification of child victims at the lower threshold, and ensuring that all decisions made by public authorities will be taken with children’s best interests as a primary consideration. It marks a significant victory for children’s rights that the Lords recognise the need for the primacy of the best interests principle on the face of legislation. Despite these wins for children, amendments 67 and 68 to Clause 59 of the Bill did not go to a vote. As a result, the Bill as it currently stands will allow the government to change the legal threshold for the first decisions victims of trafficking and modern slavery receive after being identified as potential victims. Peers worked to draft and table amendments on children with support from campaigners across the child and anti-slavery sector, including The Children’s Society, Just for Kids Law and the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium, supported by a huge coalition of charities coordinated by the Human Trafficking Foundation and the Helen Bamber Foundation, who all agree on how damaging the modern slavery proposals are. After Exploitation is leading a call to remove Part 5 from the Bill entirely. The amendments to Clause 59 and the clause exempting children were supported widely by organisations such as the Salvation Army, Missing People, the Refugee Council, Barnardo’s, Article 39, Hope for Justice, Children England, Catch-22, Safer London, Children’s Rights Alliance England, Anti-Slavery International, the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, the NWG Exploitation Response Unit, Coram Children’s Legal Centre, Focus on Labour Exploitation, Kalayaan and the National Youth Advocacy Service. Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, said: “These changes to the Nationality and Borders Bill plant important flags in the sand for child rights. They demonstrate how concerned the House of Lords is about the government’s proposals, and show that they won’t accept laws that put children in harm’s way. Now we need MPs to uphold these changes, or risk passing a Bill that makes children even more vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and abuse. “Last week we learned that more potential child victims of modern slavery than ever before were identified in 2021 in the UK. There are also widespread concerns about the displacement of millions of Ukrainian people, including children, any of whom could be vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation as a result of Russia’s invasion. Now is not the time to deny more people sanctuary and reduce identification and protection for victims of modern slavery. The Bill will affect child victims of all nationalities, especially UK nationals, and all of those child victims must be safeguarded and have their best interests protected. The government says it agrees. It should uphold these amendments to prove it.” ENDS Notes to Editors Pandora Haydon, Communications and Campaigns Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected], 07402 113 985 Clauses and Amendments Amendment 64A was accepted, and aims to ensure that age assessments will be based on international legal principles, setting out an impartial and fair process for children Tabled by Baroness Neuberger with support from Baroness Lister, Baroness Hamwee and the Bishop of Durham 232-162 Amendment 66 succeeded in removing Clause 58, meaning that children will not be penalised for missing deadlines on disclosing trauma and abuse Tabled by Lord Coaker 213-142 Amendment 68A replaced Clause 62, so that children will not be excluded from protection if they have committed offences as a result of their exploitation Tabled by Baroness Butler-Sloss on behalf of Lord Randall, with support from Lord Coaker and Baroness Hamwee 210-128 Amendment 70 replaced Clause 64, and in so doing provides support and immigration leave to remain for all confirmed victims of modern slavery, as well as ensuring that immigration decisions for child victims are made according to their best interests as the only standard Tabled by Lord McColl, supported by Lord Coaker, Lord Alton and Lord Paddick 207-123 Amendment 70ZA was accepted, and aims to protect children (for whom there were otherwise no protections on the face of the Bill) by exempting them from the most harmful proposals in Part 5 Tabled by Lord Coaker, with support from Lady Hamwee and the Bishop of Durham 194-128 More detail on Clause 59 Despite these victories for children, amendments 67 and 68 to Clause 59 of the Bill (tabled by Lord Alton; supported by Baroness Prashar and the Lord Bishop of St. Albans) did not go to a vote. As a result, the Bill as it currently stands will allow the government to change (in guidance) the legal threshold for the first decisions victims of trafficking and modern slavery receive after being identified as potential victims. The government made their intentions to raise this threshold clear in the New Plan for Immigration, despite the minister subsequently stating in yesterday’s debate they do not intend to raise it. Given the government have clearly stated the legal threshold for the second decision on the face of the Bill, campaigners are renewing their call for government to state the current threshold for this first decision on the face of the Bill too. Retaining the changes in Lord Coaker’s ‘children’s amendment’ would retain the threshold for child victims. About ECPAT UK ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking UK) is a leading children’s rights charity, campaigning and advocating for the rights of children to be protected from all forms of exploitation. We work directly with young victims of trafficking and their voices and experiences informs all our work. ECPAT UK is part of the ECPAT International network, which is present in 103 countries, working to end the sexual abuse and exploitation of children.