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Government misled MPs on trafficking data in at least 25 instances since 2015

THE government has misled MPs on trafficking data at least 25 times since the Modern Slavery Act came into place five years ago, a report published today has revealed.

After Exploitation — a not-for-profit organisation that tracks the outcomes of modern-slavery survivors — highlighted “routine” denial and suppression of data by the government in its report Hidden Futures: How Data Denial Threatens the Fight Against Slavery.

The report identified at least 25 instances where parliamentary questions were denied answers on slavery later revealed to be held by the government.

Lord McColl of Dulwich and MPs Alex Norris, Chris Ruane, David Davis, Frank Field, Kate Osamor, Angela Crawley and Louise Haigh all requested information relating to the government’s track record of detention and modern slavery — and were rejected.

In four of these instances, officials claimed that no “centralised” data could be provided on the detention of trafficking victims despite After Exploitation later uncovering evidence that all immigration, trafficking and detention data was stored in the same case-information database.

While the government denied holding data on the practice, at least 2,580 potential trafficking victims have been detained since 2017, rising by 206 per cent between 2017 and 2019, the report said. 

The research also outlined how seven parliamentary questions for data on the immigration outcomes of trafficking victims were wrongly refused, while four on the deportation or voluntary return of victims were also denied. 

This information is stored centrally by government, as shown through freedom of information (FoI) responses, the report said.

While the report highlighted the importance of FoI requests in securing modern-slavery data, After Exploitation argued that civil society should not have to challenge the government in order to secure accurate information on trafficking outcomes. 

Director Maya Esslemont said: “It is unacceptable that the government holds such vital information on the deportation, detention and support outcomes of modern-slavery survivors but refuses to publish this data. 

“Not only would this basic transparency allow survivors to be counted, it would help researchers, MPs, charities and journalists to improve their understanding of the realities facing trafficked people. 

“Withholding this information to members of the public and politicians is setting the movement back by years.”

After Exploitation is calling for the government to release quarterly data on the detention, deportation and voluntary return of potential and recognised trafficking victims, immigration outcomes of survivors and whether support was provided or denied to victims.

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