By Beyza Binnur Dönmez
GENEVA (AA) - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday said that it is "deeply concerned" by the recently proposed changes to the modern slavery protection system in the UK as part of the new illegal migration bill.
If passed, the proposed changes would "limit survivors' ability to report trafficking and access assistance, which risks exacerbating the vulnerability of victims, giving traffickers more control over them and deepening risks of further exploitation," IOM said in a statement.
IOM’s analysis of the UK Home Office’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which identifies and supports victims of modern slavery and trafficking, found "important concerns" for survivors of modern slavery including unreasonably long waiting times for decisions, which alarmingly increase two-fold in the case of women.
The organization believes that the current referral rate is only the tip of the iceberg with many victims going unnoticed because they choose not to seek help out of fear of being deported.
"There have been several statements around irregular migrants allegedly abusing the modern slavery protection system. Publicly available data shows no evidence of abuse," Christa Rottensteiner, IOM's UK chief of mission, said in the statement.
"In addition, only 7 per cent of individuals arriving in small boats are referred as potential victims of modern slavery," Rottensteiner added.
It stressed that the current form of the new illegal migration bill would make it "impossible" for victims who arrive in an irregular manner to access the NRM and get the support and protection they need.
"IOM advocates for a shorter waiting time in the NRM, particularly for women. support to access the labour market," the statement said.
Introduced early this month, the government's illegal migration bill is aimed at removing migrants entering the country on small boats. The plan includes detaining the majority of those arriving on small boats for the first 28 days without bail or judicial review.
Last year, the British government announced a new and controversial relocation plan that would see asylum seekers attempting to enter the UK being sent to Rwanda for resettlement.
More than 44,000 migrants arrived in the UK through the English Channel last year.