The Modern Slavery Act: some progress, but huge challenges remain

Dr Daniel Ogunniyi & Dr Zahra Shirgholami

Lecturers in Modern Slavery

Wilberforce Institute and the Law School

Following yesterday’s anniversary of the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act in 2015, Drs Daniel Ogunniyi and Zahra Shirgholami reflect on its impact and effectiveness eight years on.

Yesterday marked the eighth anniversary of the Modern Slavery Act (the Act), which gained Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. Adopting the legislation was arguably a watershed moment and a re-enactment of the anti-slavery spirit of the early 1800s, when the UK Parliament adopted the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act (1807), outlawing the British Atlantic slave trade. The abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, however, did not mark the end of slavery. Slavery has since mutated and taken on different complex forms. An estimated 50 million people are trapped in modern slavery today. The Act was, therefore, adopted in response to the growing exploitations in the UK, which were not clearly captured in a comprehensive legislation.

The Act consolidated the existing offences of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour, and trafficking in one piece of legislation. Following its adoption, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the national framework through which cases of modern slavery are identified and referred to the support service, was extended to all victims of modern slavery in England and Wales.

Referencing the Act in 2015, Theresa May, then Home Secretary, declared that ‘this landmark legislation sends the strongest possible signal to criminals that if you are involved in this vile trade you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted, and you will be locked up. And it says to victims, you are not alone – we are here to help you’. However, to what extent has the legislation fulfilled its promise? How has it fared in terms of criminal prosecutions and convictions? Have victims obtained justice compared to the pre-Act era?

To implement the Act effectively, the office of the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner (IASC) was established, whose mandate is to encourage good practices in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of the offences under the Act, along with the identification of victims. However, there is currently no Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner in the UK – no appointment has been made since April 2022, when the previous Commissioner, Dame Sara Thornton, completed her term. By failing to appoint a Commissioner, Ministers have been accused of undermining modern slavery protections.

In terms of the victim support mechanism, NRM data from the third quarter of 2022 alone suggest that some 4,586 potential victims of modern slavery were referred to the Home Office, amounting to a ten percent increase compared to the preceding quarter in 2021. The figures from the third quarter of 2022 represent the highest number of referrals recorded since the NRM began in 2009. This may be evidence of better awareness of modern slavery among first-responder organisations or illustrate that the number of cases has risen within the UK. Considering the broader issue with the dysfunctionality of the NRM system, as noted by Dame Sara Thornton, the latter is likely to be the case.

Some successes have, nonetheless, been recorded, particularly in the criminal justice domain. For instance, in August 2021, some 3,335 trafficking investigations were conducted compared with 1,845 in June 2020. Also, 332 traffickers were convicted in 2021 compared to 197 in 2020. These relate to trafficking offences alone. Again, these may not necessarily suggest the efficacy of the Act in tackling crime, as the NRM data has shown an increase in the number of victims over time.

Since 2015, multiple reviews of the law have also been done, which focused on two overlapping issues of victim protection and enforcement. In 2016, the then Home Secretary commissioned Caroline Haughey’s independent review of the Act, which found pockets of good practices but raised significant concerns regarding the policing and broader enforcement response. For instance, the training of police officers, investigators and prosecutors was patchy and sometimes non-existent. The quality and quantity of intelligence about the nature and scale of modern slavery were inadequate, hindering the operational response. Such shortcomings triggered the government to set up the task force on modern slavery in September 2016 to coordinate policy and operational responses.  Nonetheless, the police service inspection conducted by HMICFRS in 2017 concluded that while legislation against modern slavery has been strengthened, no concerted overall response from the police service has been provoked.

Further, Section 54 of the Act, the transparency clause, requires businesses with over £36 million turnover per year to produce an annual statement for each financial year on what steps (if any) they have taken to address modern slavery within their operation, including their supply chains. The transparency clause, intended to eliminate exploitative work within supply chains, is based on the idea of naming and shaming. It highlights the role of the consumer in pressuring companies to address modern slavery risks in their supply chains. However, the value of this approach is contentious. For example, a recent study has shown that consumers could either be largely apathetic and indifferent to others’ work conditions, unaware of the Act, or do not know how they could play a part in it.

The transparency clause in the Act did move the policy response from being entirely criminal justice-based to one shared between criminal justice and corporate responsibility. Still, a robust compliance mechanism, as noted by Broad and Turnbull (2019), rather than maintaining a light-touch business approach, is needed.

The government’s action to outlaw modern slavery is further questionable, considering the creation of what could be deemed a hostile environment towards migrants in mechanisms such as the Immigration Act 2014 and 2016. Migrant workers are continually marginalised and excluded from support in government strategies. The great concern is whether the government will shift its focus from creating a hostile environment for (undocumented) migrant workers to implementing strategies that can address all forms of labour exploitation. Until this happens, modern slavery will be used as a mask to reinforce an anti-immigration agenda, overlooking broader issues of modern slavery beyond cross-border trafficking and the growth of a hyper-flexible labour market.

Ineffective regulation and minimal political will to enforce the existing laws limit the extent to which labour exploitation and modern slavery can be addressed. As the National Audit Office commented, unless the government establishes effective oversight of modern slavery, it could not tackle modern slavery or demonstrate it is achieving value for the resources being used. It is worth noting that, in May 2022, the government announced plans for a new modern slavery bill to strengthen ‘the protection and support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery and to increase accountability of companies and other organisations to drive out modern slavery from their supply chains.’ It remains to be seen whether the new bill would consider the numerous academic and non-academic critiques to fit its purpose and accomplish its goal.

W. E. B. Du Bois: A forgotten hero

Dr Nicholas Evans

Wilberforce Institute and the School of Humanities, University of Hull

In recognition of this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, commemorated today, Dr Nicholas Evans talks about the life and work of W.E.B Du Bois, who fought tirelessly against racial discrimination for a fairer society.

On 21 March 1960, one of the most painful moments in the decades-long struggle against racial segregation in South Africa took place. At Sharpeville, on the outskirts of Johannesburg in the northern part of South Africa, 69 innocent people were killed at a peaceful demonstration against the imposition of so-called ‘pass laws’ blighting the everyday lives of all non-white South Africans during Apartheid. Such was the universal condemnation of the massacre that the United Nations has since adopted today as The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, a day that we at the University of Hull’s Wilberforce Institute observe as we strive for a fairer world.

Du Bois was born in 1868, three years after the end of the US Civil War and the ending of slavery in the United States. Whilst brought up in the more tolerant state of Massachusetts, much of his life centred upon trying to realise the freedom most assumed had been won with the end of the war. Educated at Harvard University, he was the first African-American to hold a doctorate and later the first to secure an academic appointment at an American university. He quickly rose to become an intellectual titan who spent his career opposing prejudice.

Rather than fighting an armed struggle, Du Bois used writing as a tool to secure black suffrage, proving to his harshest critics the cultural and intellectual abilities of African-Americans and thereby destroying racial stereotypes popularised during the Jim Crow era. An educational polymath, he mastered history, economics and sociology, literature and public policy. His most famous works were The Souls of Black Folk, The Philadelphia Negro and The Negro. All revealed the triumph of African-American people despite entrenched race-based inequalities in the so-called ‘land of the free’. Rather than perpetuating victimhood, he sought to raise awareness of black achievement in the face of overt racism.

Outside of academia, the civil rights pioneer played a key role in many grassroots organisations campaigning for greater equality in America. These included being one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People that sought ‘to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination’. Internationally, he attended the second meeting of the Pan-African Congress in Paris where he persuaded delegates that resolutions should ensure Africa is ruled by Africans. Throughout, his campaigning sought to promote black capabilities during the harsh conditions of Jim Crow legislation in America, and European imperialism overseas, and he was widely revered during his lifetime as a truly gifted scholar. Prevented from attending the ceremonies marking Ghanaian independence in 1957, because anti-McCarthyism resulted in his passport being taken from him for eight years, he decided to move to Ghana once he was free to travel again. Upon his death four years later, he was given a Ghanaian state funeral.

When our Institute opened in Hull’s Old Town in 2006 we rightly added Du Bois’ name to our Names On The Wall, which bridges the city’s Mandela Gardens and the world’s oldest slavery museum – the Wilberforce House Museum. His plaque reminds residents and visitors alike of those who have led campaigns for greater freedoms. In 2007, some of our community were able to visit Du Bois’ final home, now a museum, in Accra, to pay homage to his work fighting racism.

And so on this International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we salute all those, past and present, who, like Du Bois and the protestors at Sharpeville, campaign to make the world a fairer place. We ask you to pause for a moment and remember the figures who inspire you in fighting for a fairer society. They may not be intellectuals like Du Bois, or former victims of Apartheid, however racism tragically remains a barrier to a fairer world in most societies. It is dispiriting that 63 years after events at Sharpeville, and now 29 years after multiracial elections signalled the beginning of multiracial democracy in South Africa, racism remains ‘unfinished business’, a scourge on the lives of so many men, women and children.

Image: The memorial to W.E.B. Du Bois on the wall at the Institute.

Imperial History and the American Revolution

Professor Trevor Burnard

Wilberforce Professor of Slavery and Emancipation and Director of the Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull.

In today’s blog, Professor Trevor Burnard reflects on the recent workshop held at the Wilberforce Institute on the subject of the American Revolution and imperial history.

On 3 March, the Wilberforce Institute hosted a small and highly successful workshop to consider how the American Revolution was, in the words of the keynote speaker, Stephen Conway, of UCL, an event usefully seen through an imperial perspective.

The American Revolution is an important event in not just American history but in the history of the world. One of the ways in which it has an enduring importance is its role in redefining the British Empire in the late eighteenth century so that by the nineteenth century British imperialism was different to what it been in the previous century. We sometimes think of the empire with America as the first British Empire. Even though historians have been anxious to show that imperialism did not change all that much after the loss of the American colonies (to become the United States of America), it is clear that it was an event of truly historical importance in the history of imperial Britain. At a stroke, a major part of the population of the British Empire – including most of the people of that empire who were White Protestants and who thought of themselves before 1776 as Britons living overseas rather than foreigners to British customs and practices – departed the empire. The American Revolution was the first successful settler revolt in history, a counterrevolution against actions by the imperial government, which American Patriots considered tyrannical. It was also very much an imperial event, being part of a whole set of policies enacted by Britain after the Seven Years’ War (1756-63) to reconfigure a new and greatly enlarged empire.

Now is a good time to connect imperialism with the American Revolution and see the links between them. Imperial history has suddenly come back into favour after having been considered in the second half of the twentieth century as irredeemably old-fashioned and irrelevant. That has changed in the twenty-first century. As Krishan Kumar argues in Visions of Empire (2017), `the study of empires, for all their faults, engages current beliefs in multiculturalism, diaspora, migration and multinationalism.’(p. 3) In addition, the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026 is getting closer, encouraging us to rethink the American Revolution in the light of contemporary matters and an ever-changing historiography.

The workshop was designed to engage with the connection between this event and British imperialism, which is the subject of a forthcoming book by Trevor Burnard, Director of the Wilberforce Institute, and Andrew O’Shaughnessy, former director of research at Monticello and professor at the University of Virginia. Andrew, who is currently a fellow at the Wilberforce Institute, will be applying his great knowledge of the imperial dimensions of the American Revolution to this joint effort. He published The Men Who Lost America: British Leadership, the American Revolution, and the Fate of the Empire in 2014.

Trevor and Andrew were joined by scholars from France, Germany and Britain, who presented papers on military aspects of imperialism in the American Revolution and participated in two workshops on the wider European contexts of the War of American Independence and on recent trends in the writing on empire and revolution.

The workshop was extremely stimulating, and at times provocative, and served as a first event in the four-year lead-up to the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution under the auspices of the British Group in Early American History. It is also part of America2026, a large-scale European grouping of scholars who are determined to see the American Revolution as an intrinsic part of European and European imperial history. Andrew will continue the involvement of the Wilberforce Institute with America2026 on 10 March at a seminar in Paris on ‘Transnationalismes, Crises and Révolutions’.

John Trumbull‘s painting, Declaration of Independence, depicting the five-man drafting committee of the Declaration of Independence presenting their work to the Congress. See

Hearing the Voices of Ukrainian Children and Young People

Dr Alicia Heys

Lecturer in Modern Slavery

Wilberforce Institute University of Hull

In this short blog, Dr Alicia Heys reflects on her current role in supporting UNICEF’s ‘Hearing the Voices of Ukrainian Children and Young People’ programme in Poland and Bulgaria.

On February 24th, 2022, the Russian Federation escalated its conflict in the Donbas region to a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. As a direct result, current estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] state that approximately 7 million Ukrainians have been internally displaced, with a further 7.2 million Ukrainians having fled to neighbouring countries. This includes approximately 15,000 unaccompanied minors. In addition to these vast numbers of refugees and the increased risk of human trafficking and child sexual exploitation and abuse, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs [OCHA] estimates that approximately 1 million children are at risk of being affected by conflict-related mental health issues.  

In response to this ongoing crisis, the Europe and Central Asia Regional Office of the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF] initiated the ‘Hearing the Voices of Ukrainian Children and Young People: Child Helplines Responding to the Ukraine Crisis’ programme, to be implemented by Child Helpline International

This programme had three objectives: 

1. To improve and maintain the capacity of child helplines to ensure quality services for young people in need of care and protection, with a particular focus on children affected by the Ukrainian conflict;  

2. To raise awareness among the public, with particular focus on Ukrainian children and parents of the existence of child helpline services for children and families; and  

3. To ensure the inclusion and amplification of children’s voices and generate evidence to influence policymaking through reliable national and regional data collection, analysis and sharing. 

However, a scoping needs assessment revealed that few counsellors working for national child helplines had received training relating to the Ukrainian war. Indeed, most counsellors did not have experience or training regarding humanitarian emergencies as a whole, nor in several of the most pressing issues emerging from conflict, including conflict-related sexual and gender-based violence and trafficking in human beings, especially as this relates to children. 

As a Lecturer in Modern Slavery at the Wilberforce Institute, and a specialist in the connection between contemporary slavery and conflict, I am supporting this programme by delivering training to counsellors who work for these helplines in nearby countries. I was in Poland from February 8-10, and in Bulgaria from February 28 to March 1. I conducted extensive research on the links between conflict and human trafficking in my doctoral thesis, and am situating this research within the specific context of the Ukrainian conflict to increase participants’ knowledge and help them identify and respond to risk when they are supporting children through the helplines. This training will help them to better understand some of the issues that Ukrainian children and young people contacting their helpline are most at risk of, as well as to recognise some of their associated indicators. 

Thomas Clarkson and voluntary enslavement

Dr Judith Spicksley

Lecturer in Economic History

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

In this blog, Judith reflects on a little-discussed aspect of the writings of Thomas Clarkson, British abolitionist and leading campaigner against the transatlantic slave trade in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries – his support for voluntary enslavement.

In an earlier blog I looked at two ceremonies of voluntary enslavement in the medieval period, one in England and the other in Scotland. Here I consider a further discussion of this practice in the work of Thomas Clarkson, which may surprise some readers. Clarkson, a leading light in British abolitionism, was a founder member of the Society for the Purpose of Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade, established in 1787, and a driving force behind it. His obsessive desire for abolition appears to have developed during his time at St John’s College, Cambridge. After graduating with a BA in Mathematics in 1783, Clarkson, who stayed on to train for the priesthood, entered and won the undergraduate Latin essay competition in 1784. His success encouraged him to try his luck again the following year, a decision that was to change his life, and the lives of many others.

The question for the senior bachelor’s Latin essay prize in 1785 was decided by Peter Peckard, the newly appointed vice-chancellor of the University. Peckard, who had been the master of Magdalene College since 1781, had developed an interest in, as well as an opposition to, the transatlantic slave trade.

Like many people, Peckard had been horrified by the Zong incident, also in 1781, when a captain had thrown 133 slaves overboard so that he could reclaim their value in insurance. Once again Clarkson was successful, and having won the prize, had his essay translated quickly into English for the Quaker bookseller James Phillips, who became a close associate. It appeared in 1786 as An Essay on the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species, Particularly the African (London, 1786).  Clarkson gave up the idea of a career in the church and threw himself into the fight to abolish the slave trade.

This story of Clarkson’s winning essay is well known and frequently told, but there is rarely any discussion of the question set by Peckard. Yet this was the thing that interested me. Peckard chose as the title, Anne Liceat Invitos in Servitutem Dare? which translates into English as‘Is it lawful to make slaves of others against their will?’  Peckard did not appear to be concerned with the question of whether slavery was wrong per se, only if it was wrong to enslave someone against their will. This suggests that he believed slavery – when undertaken consensually – would be lawful. Moreover, this is clearly the position to which Clarkson was responding, as his opening gambit reveals.

He began his essay by describing ‘a general division of slavery, into voluntary and involuntary’. The voluntary he further divided into two classes:

for, in the first instance, there was a contract, founded on consent; and, in the second, there was a choice of engaging or not in those practices, the known consequences of which were servitude. (Essay, 6 [italics original])

Even though Clarkson accepted that the two classes of voluntary enslavement were distinct – those reduced on the one hand by ‘the contingencies of fortune’ and on the other by ‘their own imprudence’ – he still saw both as voluntary. Those who knew the punishment for a given offence was slavery had in his view made a choice to commit the offence, and therefore to suffer the consequences.

The experience of these two classes, however, was quite different. Those who contracted for their own slavery were able to regulate the conditions of their subjection.

We may observe of the above-mentioned [‘fortune’], that their situation was in many instances similar to that of our own servants. There was an express contract between the parties: they could, most of them, demand their discharge, if they were ill used by their respective masters; and they were treated therefore with more humanity than those, whom we usually distinguish in our language by the appellation of Slaves. (Essay, 4)

Those who became enslaved through ‘imprudence’ as punishment, on the other hand, were:

in a far more wretched situation, than those of the former; their drudgery was more intense; their treatment more severe; and there was no retreat at pleasure, from the frowns and lashes of their despotick masters. (Essay, 5)

Closer to what we might think of as slavery, Clarkson nevertheless referred to those who were enslaved through imprudence, as well as those through fortune, as ‘servants’, in order to distinguish them from what in his mind was the real villein of the piece – the illegitimate involuntary slavery he associated with the transatlantic slave trade.

Again it was not the idea of involuntary labour that Clarkson sought to challenge.  As meted out to ‘delinquents’ by European states in a variety of public works, slavery, in which ‘only the idea of labour is included’, was entirely acceptable. (Essay, 105-6) What he did not accept was the idea that people could be reduced to items of ‘property’, because this in turn reduced them to the status of a ‘brute’, and so was ‘a contradiction to every principle of nature’. (Essay, 106) Moreover, he believed that the notion that men were property had a lot to answer for.

Commerce in men, according to Clarkson, was not only ‘founded on the idea that men were property’, but it was this commerce that had been  the origin of involuntary slavery. (Essay, 31) And this, he argued, was the slavery on which the transatlantic trade had been built. Clarkson claimed that ninety percent of African slaves had either been privately kidnapped or seized without good cause on the authority of a prince. Received against their will by ‘fraud and violence’, they were subsequently sold to the highest bidder in direct contravention of divine law. (Essay, 94-6) This for Clarkson, was the ultimate form of slavery, and had to be brought to end.

But if Clarkson’s Essay kick-started the process that eventually led to the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, it also helped to undermine the idea that slavery could be voluntary. The decision of Clarkson to position voluntary slavery within the language of service, and conceptualise it as a contractual arrangement or a socio-legal obligation, served to separate it from the property-based model of the involuntary slave that we are now familiar with. Discussions of Clarkson’s Essay today rarely include any reference to voluntary slavery, at least in part because it is difficult to imagine slavery as anything other than involuntary – surely no-one would choose to reduce themselves to the status of property unless it was the least worst alternative? Then again, perhaps they didn’t. For Clarkson, it seems only those taken against their will as commodities were property.  Other forms of slavery, based on punishment or agreement, had an impact on the social status of those concerned, but did not reduce them to property.

Meet Dr Zahra Shirgholami

Dr Zahra Shirgholami

Lecturer in Modern Slavery

Wilberforce Institute and the Law School

University of Hull

We are delighted to welcome Dr Zahra Shirgholami, our second new member of staff to the Wilberforce Institute, to extend and strengthen our modern slavery research. She will also be teaching in the Law School. Here Zahra explains what drew her to modern slavery research and what she will contribute to the Institute.

What drew you to modern slavery research?

To make a long story short, I have a background in engineering. But I was always passionate about social issues as a person who felt the bitterness of injustice and oppression in her home country of Iran. So, in 2018, I shifted my focus from engineering to social science.

Tell us about your professional background

I have researched modern slavery and governance issues in various contexts over the last four years. During my PhD research, I tried to broaden an understanding of the dynamics of apparel value chains facilitating the persistence of modern slavery and corporate practices. I have also been examining the nature of labour exploitation and modern slavery along with related policy and law enforcement mechanisms in the UK. I also worked with Pact, an international non-profit organisation, to map and analyse the relevant national and international modern slavery legislation in the mineral supply chain of the Democratic Republic of Congo and United Kingdom (DRC-UK).

How does your background inform your current work?

These experiences taught me that much remains to be done to address the fundamental institutional misalignments and governance gaps and, ultimately, to tackle modern slavery. Yet, considering the UK, the political discourse supports a hyper-flexible labour market along with a hostile environment for migration, making it challenging for individuals to access their fundamental rights. Nonetheless, my research could pave the way for addressing modern slavery by unravelling the unknowns about it and providing robust evidence on how it could be best prevented. I also have a teaching position in the Law School which aligns well with my research interests.

What do you think are some of the misconceptions about modern slavery?

As Emily Kenway well said in her book, The Truth About Modern Slavery, we sometimes should ‘unknow’ what we know about modern slavery, to understand it. For example, it is not a migration issue and it is not an exception.

What is something people do not know about you?

I think they know all they should know!

Modern Slavery Statutory Guidance Updates 30 January 2023

Andrew Smith

Manager of the ACTion to Combat Modern Slavery Hub

Co-ordinator of the Humber Modern Slavery Partnership

The Modern Slavery Guidance for England and Wales, which has recently been updated to reflect many of the changes introduced through the Nationality and Borders Act, came into effect from 30 January 2023. Here Andrew Smith lays out in detail important information about those changes for anyone who is working in this area.

It is worth saying there are numerous updates of great significance to the Modern Slavery Act. Rightly so there are grave concerns about the changes to the Reasonable Grounds [RG] threshold, time limits on evidence gathering at Conclusive Grounds [CG] stage, and disqualifications. I know colleagues around the country are working hard to disseminate all known information about these policy changes to their partnership areas and networks. These changes will have many expected and undoubtedly even more unknown impacts on how first responders are able to quickly identify and refer potential victims of modern slavery.

The changes to the Reasonable Grounds threshold and the evidence required, along with the inevitable period of adjustment for first responders, could certainly have an impact on how quickly and effectively local authority child National Referral Mechanism [NRM] decision-making pilot areas are able to suitably refer, and then safeguard, young people they suspect are being exploited. Regardless of any future NRM decision-making processes, it is important young people and adults across the county continue to be supported away from exploitation and those that would do them harm.

The changes to time limits on evidence gathering also mean there is now more onus on First Responders to give as much information and specific evidence as possible when submitting a referral. The online NRM referral form has been updated to reflect these changes to ensure first responders include all relevant information when gathering evidence before submitting the referral. 

Clearly, there is also the urgent need for all organisations to reflect these changes in any first responder training across the country. Training is not only an investment in the professionals we trust to identity and refer potential victims but is vital to ensure we are fulfilling our moral and legal duties to all people that have suffered or are suffering trafficking and exploitation.

It is definitely too early to make any firm assertions on what these changes will mean for the wider anti-slavery system in the UK, but what is clear is that implementing blanket changes based on hostile immigration control will have disastrous consequences for many genuine victims who are unable to ‘evidence’ their traumatic and life changing experiences.

Summary of changes extracted from Section 49 Statutory Guidance:

  1. Changes to the Glossary – Added ‘Additional Recovery Period’, ‘Bad Faith’ (p.13), ‘Nationality and Borders Act 2022’, ‘Public Order’ (p.16), ‘Public order disqualification’, ‘Public order disqualification request’ (p.17) and ‘Victim of Human Trafficking or Slavery (VTS)’ (p.18). Updated ‘Reasonable Grounds Decision’ and ‘Recovery Period’ (p.17).
  • Definition of human trafficking – ‘transferring or exchanging control over’ has been added to Action under the definition of human trafficking (p.21). Sec.2.25 is new and sets out that abuse which happens on route and is not connected to the purpose of travel does not necessarily constitute as trafficking (p.24). Sec.2.26 is new and sets out the definition of sexual exploitation in relation to the Slavery and Human Trafficking (Definition of Victim) Regulations (p.24)
  • Indicators of modern slavery – Sec.3.7 is new and sets out that when determining if someone is a victim of modern slavery, regard may be had to the person’s age, family relationships and physical or mental disabilities, which impair a person’s ability to protect themselves.
  • Reasonable Grounds Decision – The Reasonable Grounds Decision threshold is no longer ‘suspects but cannot prove’ and is now ‘based on objective factors but falling short of conclusive proof’. Sec.7.4 and 7.8 are new (p.61).

·         The section on Making a Reasonable Grounds decision has been completely updated (p.129-174) and now means that a victim’s own testimony alone is no longer sufficient for a +RG decision. There needs to be additional information or evidence, such as medical, witness or expert statements or police reports submitted. Country reports or travel records will not be enough in themselves. Types of evidence are listed at the bottom of p.130-1.

·         ‘The relevant competent authority will take reasonable steps to gather all available information before making a decision within the 5-day decision-making timeframe’. Where there is insufficient evidence provided, the competent authority can question if the RG threshold is met.

·         The RG section now includes information on inconsistent and incomplete accounts, including a list of circumstances for why there might be a lack of detail or reasons for delayed disclosure, in order for the competent authority to assess credibility. If the individual had multiple opportunities to raise information ‘and fails to do so until action is brought against them, such as an Immigration Enforcement removal direction, then this should be weighed in the balance with all other evidence and may damage their credibility.’

·         Sec.14.50-14.81 are new. Sec.14.83 has a new line added: ‘It is not necessary to prove that an offence has taken place, or for there to be an ongoing criminal investigation to find that an individual is a victim’.

  • Recovery Period – The recovery period was reduced from 45 days to 30 in the previous iteration of the guidance.

·         Sec.8.20 has been edited to include that the recovery period will not be observed where a public order or bad faith disqualification apply, or it’s been decided not to provide an additional recovery period (p.69) [does not apply to children]. Previously the guidance said a recovery period will not be observed where ‘grounds of public order prevent it’.

·         There is a new sec.14.86-14.127 on Making an Additional Recovery Period, including a table showing the decision-making framework (p.136-147). In most cases, a victim will not get a second recovery period if they have had a +CG and made a new NRM referral for exploitation that took place before the first RG decision was made. This is different to if victims are re-trafficked after the initial NRM referral.

  • Evidence Gathering at Conclusive Grounds stage – When making a CG decision, the competent authority can now ask a victim or their legal representative for information to be provided within (a minimum) of 14 days and send a reminder for this after 7 days.

·         If this deadline can’t be met, the victim or legal representative can request an extension. This should be requested along with evidence for why the information can’t be provided and an updated timeframe for when it can. The competent authority will then use the criteria listed in the guidance when deciding whether to grant the extension. A CG decision will be made on the basis of the information available to the competent authority.

·         Sec.14.138-14.142 and 14.144 (p.150) are new. Consideration minutes and case records: Lines 5-8 of sec.1.174 are new, as is line 5-10 of 14.177 and line 5-9 of 14.178. The public order and bad faith points in the list in 14.207 are new.

  • Public Order Disqualification – Updated section p.166-176. For definition of public order see glossary p.16.

·         Where the public order disqualification applies, the victim will not have access to a recovery period or support, protection from removal, a CG decision, or Temporary Permission to stay as a Victim of Human Trafficking or Slavery.

·         This can apply to victims currently in the NRM who received their RG decision before 30 January 2023 (individuals in Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract [MSVCC] accommodation who receive a disqualification are provided with 9 working days of move-on support).

·         Disqualification requests can be raised by the Competent Authorities and the Foreign National Offender Returns Command where removal or deportation action is being pursued and the victim meets the public order definition. Disqualification requests can be raised by Competent Authorities where a British citizen is in detention or on licence or a British citizen has presented with challenging behaviours in modern slavery support, and it has been identified by the competent authority that the individual meets the public order definition.

·         The disqualification decision should be made within 30 working days of the disqualification referral wherever possible. First Responders must always make an NRM Referral or a Duty to Notify, even where the individual is likely to meet the public order definition.

·         There is a new Public Order Decision-Making framework table on p.172, which includes information on criminal exploitation, child referrals and threatening behaviour in MSVCC support. ‘A second pair of eyes review will take place on all public order disqualification decisions resulting in a disqualification’.

  • Bad Faith Disqualification – New section p.177-183 updating the previous section on improper claims.

·         ‘An individual may be considered to have claimed to be a victim of modern slavery in “bad faith” where they, or someone acting on their behalf, have knowingly made a dishonest statement in relation to being a victim of modern slavery’.

·         Decisions to disqualify individuals on grounds of bad faith may be made for all cases referred into the NRM before, on, or after 30 January 2023, even if a +CG decision has been made. The disqualification may only be applied where an individual has received a +RG decision.

·         Where the bad faith disqualification applies, the victim will not have access to a recovery period or support, protection from removal, a CG decision, or Temporary Permission to stay as a Victim of Human Trafficking or Slavery. Any RG or CG decision will be revoked.

·         Children (those under 18 at the time of the RG decision) are exempt from disqualification on grounds of bad faith.

·         The consideration of whether to apply the bad faith disqualification will be triggered by evidence from the First Responder, or from within the Competent Authority where evidence of bad faith arises during the CG decision-making process. Where First Responders have concerns about an individual’s credibility, they should indicate this on the referral form.

·         Individuals will be given the opportunity to provide explanatory evidence once the decision maker has communicated their intention to apply the disqualification. Credible explanations for gaps in evidence or a lack of credibility are listed on p.180. A second pair of eyes review must take place on all bad faith decisions resulting in disqualification.

  • Temporary Permission to Stay for Victims of Human Trafficking or Slavery (VTS) – p.217 Non-European Economic Area [EEA] and EEA nationals will automatically be considered for a grant of VTS if they do not already have the right to stay.

·         Victims will need a positive CG decision to be considered for VTS

·         Additional guidance is here 

Meet Dr Daniel Ogunniyi

Dr Daniel Ogunniyi

Lecturer in Modern Slavery

Wilberforce Institute and the Law School

University of Hull

Over the last few months, we have been delighted to welcome two new members of staff into the Wilberforce Institute to extend and strengthen our modern slavery research. Here the first, Dr Daniel Ogunniyi, explains what drew him to anti-slavery research and what he will bring to the Institute.

What drew you to anti-slavery research?

Well, I will say serendipity and a deep interest in social justice. Early on, I was fascinated by questions around vulnerability and childhood issues. My interests would later develop specifically around child labour and the silencing of marginalised groups in society. I imagined that a law degree might help mitigate vulnerabilities if effectively mobilised. So, as a first step, I enrolled to study law. After completing this degree, I quickly realised I had zero interest in the everyday life of a lawyer. I then decided on pursuing an LLM in international law drawn by the prospects of working at the UN or becoming a career diplomat. Again, my PhD would later refocus itself around child labour and child trafficking. I am glad the research directed its own course. This was the start of my journey into the anti-slavery space.

Tell us about your professional background

My background is quite varied. Before joining the Wilberforce Institute, I held various positions at the UN and in many universities around the world. In particular, I worked at the UNICEF Office of Research in Florence, Italy, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, Netherlands, Centre for Human Rights in Pretoria, South Africa, Redeemer’s University, Nigeria, and the Rights Lab at the University of Nottingham among others. My work with these organisations mostly revolved around researching international law in relation to modern slavery, children’s Rights, and humanitarian law. However, the OPCW was quite a unique one – it had no direct link to modern slavery. It nevertheless offered me a chance to work with lawyers from different legal traditions. As the nature of the role involved international diplomacy and the rendering of legal advice to states parties and the secretariat, it offered me a chance to see international law in action, which also shapes my thinking about anti-slavery governance today. Given the physical proximity between the OPCW Secretariat and the Peace Palace where the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is based, I enjoyed frequenting the ICJ library to do research. The diverse experiences have been quite rewarding.

How does your background inform your current work?

Oh, there is a strong link between my background and what I now do at the Wilberforce Institute and Hull University. I firmly believe that Modern slavery can be eradicated through effective implementation of the law at different levels. Given my law background, I mostly look at modern slavery eradication through the prism of the law and how legal reforms could improve antislavery governance on the ground. Of course, antislavery governance becomes complicated when there are no prohibitions of elements constituting modern slavery. So, part of my work is to understand domestic implementation or lack of it in different countries. Of course, I do also hold a teaching position at the Hull Law School, which aligns well with my academic and professional background.

What do you think are some of the misconceptions about modern slavery?

There’s quite a few of them. That slavery belongs to the past and is non-existent in the modern world or that slavery happens in some distant country at the end of the earth (this thinking is particularly widespread in western countries). It is interesting to mention that based on data from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the majority of victims seeking support in the NRM system are UK nationals. Some also view slavery purely from the perspective of de jure ownership or when victims are shackled. These views are somewhat inaccurate and slavery in the modern sense could take more subtle forms.

What is something people do not know about you?

I am a bit of a runner and a keen boxing and UFC fan.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906-1945

Dr Nicholas Evans

Senior Lecturer in Diaspora History

Wilberforce Institute, University of Hull

For Holocaust Memorial Day 2023, Dr Nicholas Evans reveals the story behind one of the less familiar names on our wall – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

When the Wilberforce Institute opened in 2006 the rear of our home at Oriel Chambers, facing Hull’s Mandela Gardens, included the names of 18 key figures from across the world who fought for human rights in different times and places. Whilst some needed no introduction, such as Nelson Mandela, Sylvia Pankhurst, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., a couple have perpetually left visitors to our Institute and the surrounding Hull Museums asking for further information. One of the entries on the space entitled ‘Names On The Wall’ that people most often ask about is that of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor who died a month before the end of the Second World War. For Holocaust Memorial Day this year we highlight aspects of his life that justify his inclusion in our list of freedom fighters – he was executed because of his opposition to Nazism.

Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Poland, then part of Germany, in 1906. A German Lutheran theologian, he studied in both Europe and America, but was especially influenced by his time in the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, New York. Upon returning to Germany in 1931, his career as a scholar and cleric was dramatically affected by the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933. Two days after Hitler’s installation as Chancellor he spoke out against the Nazi leader, appealing to fellow Christians to oppose Nazism, and producing one of his most memorable quotes “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself”.

Alert to the dangers of Hitler’s rhetoric and Nazi influence on the German Evangelical Church, Bonhoeffer appealed for racial justice and founded his own seminary that was opposed to Nazi influence. When this was closed by the Gestapo, he found himself unable to officially speak or write out against the evils of the Holocaust.

Prevented from leaving Germany, he instead became part of the resistance movement fighting against Nazism within Germany, but was arrested in April 1943 for his involvement in Operation 7, a scheme that managed to smuggle fourteen Jews on deportation lists from Germany to Switzerland on visas; he was imprisoned awaiting trial. In February 1945, during the final days of Nazism, he was sent to the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp, before ultimately being stripped naked and executed at the Flossenbürg concentration camp on 9 April 1945, four weeks before Victory in Europe [VE] day. His influence continued beyond his death, however, with adherents including Dr Martin Luther King Jr. citing his writings and his attempts to bridge ecclesiastical divides to champion freedoms. Later declared a twentieth century martyr by many churches, a statue of him was added to the exterior of Westminster Abbey in 1998.

Holocaust Memorial Day has been marked on 27 January in the UK since 2001 as a day to remember all victims of genocide because it was the anniversary of the Russian liberation of the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. However I hope this blog is a timely reminder that death and slavery did not end on 27 January 1945. Like Bonhoeffer, countless innocent lives have been ended prematurely by both genocide and slavery around the world before, during and after the liberation of Auschwitz. This Holocaust Memorial Day, I argue, we need more people like Bonhoeffer to make a stand against those tyrants who seek to deprive us of our basic human rights. In very uncertain times, we should not take freedom for granted, but must speak out. Ordinary people can make a difference!

Programme of Public Lectures at the Wilberforce Institute, Spring 2023

As Spring Term beckons, Dr Judith Spicksley, co-ordinator of the public lecture programme for the Wilberforce Institute, lays out the exciting and varied schedule of talks that are on offer this year.

Thank you to everyone who attended our lectures in the autumn term, in person or online. As the new year begins, I write to draw your attention to the public lectures we have on offer this spring. All will take place at the Wilberforce Institute, Oriel Chambers, at 27 High Street, Hull, HU1 1NE, unless otherwise stated. Join us for refreshments from 4.15pm and stay afterwards for a glass of wine and a chance to talk with our speaker. If you can’t make it in person, you can join us online. Specific links for each of the talks are listed below. For more details of how to stream lectures, or directions to the Institute, please contact Sophie Blanchard at The full programme of lectures is also available on the ‘Event Programme’ tab.

Our first talk is on Wednesday 25 January 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT. As it’s a joint venture with the Cultures of Incarceration Centre, it will not be in the Institute, but on campus, in the Wilberforce Building, WILB-LT12. You can also sign up to stream here.

Our speaker is Professor Steven Sarson of Université Jean Moulin in Lyon, who will talk on ‘A “Cruel War against Human Nature”: Conditional Proslavery in the US Declaration of Independence’. His interests are wide-ranging, from the history of the British Atlantic, to Great Britain in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the history of America, and Barack Obama.

Professor Sarson began his teaching career as a lecturer at the University of East Anglia, and has since held posts at John Hopkins University and Towson State University in Maryland, and Swansea University in Wales. He is now Professor of American Civilisation in the Department of English at Jean Moulin University, and it is in this capacity that he comes to talk. His abstract is as follows.

It is commonly believed that the Declaration of Independence promised a future of equality and liberty for ‘all men’, and consequently that the continued existence of slavery contradicted the founding principles of the United States. This paper, however, based on a larger project on history and historical consciousness in the Declaration, argues that some of the document’s logic was consistent with the continuation of slavery. If the ‘ends’ of government were the protection of the life, liberty, property, and ‘Safety and Happiness’ of its subjects, then it was necessary to suppress internal and external enemies. According to Grotius, Locke, and others, that allowed for the enslavement of prisoners of war. And according to the Declaration’s own American history, it allowed for the enslavement of Africans and African Americans. The Declaration’s ‘one people’ had been forged out of the common ‘circumstances of our emigration and settlement here’ that only applied to European Americans. By contrast, Africans and African Americans were a once ‘distant people’ who were ‘obtruded’ on America via the ‘warfare of the … king of Great Britain’ who then ‘excited’ them into ‘domestic insurrections amongst us’. Enslavement was therefore one of the ‘Guards for their future security’ that ‘one people’ needed against another, at least until that enemy could be expatriated (in line with the belief of Jefferson and others that integration was impossible). Slavery certainly violated ‘the most sacred rights of life & liberty’ and thus troubled Jefferson deeply, but the often-quoted doctrine of salus populi est suprema lex (‘the safety of the people is the highest law’) over-rode such concerns and was the basis of a conditional proslavery (the very real inverse of William Freehling’s ‘conditional antislavery’) embedded in the Declaration’s history and historical consciousness.

For directions to the lecture room or other enquiries about this talk please email Becky Day at

In February we have what has now become an annual fixture when current and former PhD students come to talk about their research.  This year our ‘What’s going on at the Wilberforce Institute?’ event will take place on Wednesday February 15 2023, 4.30-6pm GMT, and will involve two of the students of our Falling Through the Net Cluster, James Baker and Jasmine Holding Brown.

Every year the University sets aside a sum of money to fund clusters of PhD projects on specific topics that align with its strategic plan. This money is distributed via a competition, in which departments and Institutes within the University bid for cluster projects, and are assessed by a panel for their originality, value and strategic importance. In 2018 the Institute was successful in gaining funding for this cluster, which ran from 2019-2022. Its aim was to examine the exploitation of children, and more specifically, how and why children trafficked across borders fall through the web of protections that we expect the family, the voluntary sector, and ultimately the state, to provide.

James’ work focuses on the apologies and memorials that followed from the experience of British children forced to migrate to Australia [‘Reconciling British Child Deportation to Australia, 1913-1970: Apologies, Memorials and Family Reunions’]. Jasmine has examined the treatment of British children forced to migrate to Canada alongside that of indigenous children [‘Exploiting the Poor, Erasing the Indigenous: The Child Subjects of British Settler Colonialism in Canada, c. 1867 – 1981’] I hope you will be able to come and hear what they have to say.

For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.

For our next public lecture on Wednesday March 15 2023, at 4.30-6pm GMT, we will be welcoming Dr Dean Clay, currently working in the Department of History at Hull. The title of his talk is “‘To Bunco a Yankee’ – The American Congo Reform Movement, 1903-1909”.

Dr Clay taught at Liverpool John Moores University, and the universities of Newcastle and Northumbria before he came to Hull. His research lies in the field of activism, particularly on movements and organisations whose activities transcend national boundaries, with a specific focus on how activists coordinate and the impact of their activism on government domestic and foreign policy.

Dr Clay was a Committee Member of the European research project ‘The Congo Free State Across Language, Culture, Media’ which ran from 2015-18, and is still Editor for the associated website, Congo Free State.  It is on this subject that he will be talking. His abstract is below.

The atrocities committed in the Congo Free State (CFS) under the rule of King Leopold II during the age of imperialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries eventually became one of the greatest international scandals in recorded history. Of all the participants in the scramble for Africa, engaged by most European colonial powers in the nineteenth century, Leopold II, King of the Belgians, left arguably the biggest and most damaging legacy of all. In April 1884, the United States became the first nation to formally recognise the International Association of the Congo’s claim to the territory that would become the CFS. Leopold successfully lobbied President Chester A. Arthur to support his claim, emphasising free trade, humanitarianism, his plan to end the Arab slave trade, and the involvement of Welsh-American Henry Morton Stanley in the project. It was this initial recognition of the flag of the CFS by the United States that later provided the foundations for the American Congo reform movement in the early twentieth century.

The purpose of this paper is to examine the underexplored dimensions of American humanitarian activism on the Congo issue by analysing the reform activities of the American Congo Reform Association (ACRA). The paper will examine the methods that the ACRA deployed in its reform campaign, the transnational dimensions to the campaign through its relationship with the Congo Reform Association (CRA) in Britain, and the impact of its campaign for reform on the foreign policy of the United States government. In doing so, it challenges the dominant historiographical narrative of the reform movement that attributes its success largely to the CRA, instead highlighting the significant role that the ACRA played, and demonstrates the agency of non-state humanitarian actors in directing foreign policy regarding humanitarian issues during the Progressive Era in the United States.

For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.

In April we move away from history towards contemporary concerns. On Wednesday 19 April 2023, at 4.30-6pm BST we welcome Dr Rosemary Broad, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Manchester.  She will talk about ‘Women in modern slavery offending’. PLEASE NOTE: This talk will also be held on campus, in the Wilberforce Building, WILB-LT12.

Dr Broad’s research includes human trafficking, modern slavery, responses to violence, organised crime, the management of offenders and prison education. She has published in the British Journal of Criminology, the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research, and the European Review of Organised Crime.

Dr Broad, who has acted as a consultant for the Home Office in a review of their modern slavery research, also has extensive work experience in criminal justice institutions and remains involved with working with perpetrators of domestic violence in the community. Her talk, outlined in the abstract below, will focus on the women who perpetrate human trafficking and modern slavery offences.

At a global scale, women are represented in human trafficking and modern slavery crimes at proportionately higher levels than almost any other type of offending (UNODC, 2020) and this trend is represented in similar ways at national and local levels. But contrary to the stereotypical narratives surrounding perpetrators of such crimes as foreign national organised criminals, many of the women that become implicated have more complex journeys into offending that require a more diverse understanding. These female perpetrators often have backgrounds of complex vulnerability, marginalisation and responsibility to care for dependent relatives which contribute to their offending as well as framing prior victimisation which also provides the foundation for later criminal involvement. This presentation will draw on over a decade of empirical research to consider the question of how the over-representation of women convicted for these offences can be explained, drawing on theoretical frameworks on women’s offending more generally as well as a more specific focus on how policy and practice responses to human trafficking, modern slavery and migration may contribute to these pathways.

For directions to the University, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at To sign up to stream this lecture online please click here.

We bring our spring season to a close on Wednesday 17 May 2023, at 4.30-6PM BST with a talk by Dr Nicholas Evans, the longest standing member of the Wilberforce Institute, and Senior Lecturer in Diaspora History at the University of Hull. The title of his talk is ‘Memorialising antislavery in South Africa: unearthing black agency’.

Dr Evans researches migration to, through and from Britain, and has an interest in Jewish history, diasporas and slavery. His latest publication, edited with Professor Angela McCarthy, is Death in the Diaspora: British and Irish Gravestones (Edinburgh University Press, 2020). This pioneering comparative study of migrant death markers (gravestones and epitaphs) across the British and Irish worlds reflects his more recent interests in death studies and memorialisation.

Dr Evans, whose range of interests sees him regularly invited to give talks at local, national and international level, is well-known to many of you. For this talk, he will draw together his work on slavery and gravestones. His abstract is below.

Following the passing of the British Slave Trade Act in 1807, the Royal Navy assumed the role of ending slave trading by British vessels, and those of other nations, around the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. One of the key centres for this antislavery endeavour was the Cape Station located at Simon’s Town, South Africa. Despite the perception that the crews involved in this liberating endeavour were exclusively white, evidence from the oldest surviving naval cemetery in Simon’s Town challenges this view. This presentation thereby reveals how people freed from slavery during the nineteenth century played an active role in helping other Africans to maintain their freedom.

For directions to the Institute, or any other queries please contact Sophie Blanchard at, or you can sign up to stream this lecture online here.

I hope there is something here to draw your interest. If there is anything else you would like to know please get in touch with me at or Sophie at the email address above. We look forward to welcoming you in person or online.