A young trafficking victim called Hung became the moving focus of a speech given by the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner at the House of Lords yesterday (Monday 11 September).
Kevin Hyland OBE told an audience, which included retired judge Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Refuge chief executive Sandra Horley CBE, how he visited Vietnam and learned about the young boy who was trafficked to the UK before being forced to grow cannabis and subjected to domestic and sexual abuse.
Mr Hyland said, Hung found himself begging and homeless in Vietnam. He was approached by a man who said he could take him to the UK for $30,000 and pay him back by working. What happened next was horrific.
Journalists and NGOs heard how Hung was eventually rescued and placed in local authority care but twice tracked down by traffickers and forced back into slavery, which also included domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. According to the Commissioner, Hung's multiple disappearances from the UK's 'system' demonstrate a lack of professionalism in the response to the plight of trafficking victims - an increasing number of whom are Vietnamese nationals. Vietnam has consistently featured in official statistics on modern slavery as one of the top three source countries for victims of the crime.
The Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner visited Vietnam in 2015 and subsequently commissioned research to examine the dynamics of Vietnamese exploitation. He told the House of Lords gathering it is essential to understand countries of origin in relation to modern slavery. The only way to eradicate this crime is from a position of understanding. He further explained his strategy in terms of a Pursue, Prevent, Protect and Prepare framework.
Mr Hyland also shared a series of clear recommendations arising from his fact-finding trip and subsequent report. He spoke of the need to link with Vietnamese law enforcement and immigration officials; implementing a regulated and ethical migrant broker scheme; nail bar licensing and specialised police and judiciary training.
Serious failings in the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) were also flagged up by the Commissioner and detailed in his new report, which highlights â€œlost opportunities of intelligenceâ€ and a need for NRM data to be taken more seriously. The NRM is the UKâ€™s framework for potential victims of modern slavery to be identified and referred for appropriate support. The system needs improvement in many areas and the Commissioner is pushing for complete reform.
The Vietnam report - called "Combating modern slavery experienced by Vietnamese nationals en route to, and within, the UK" reveals that even basic information such as a slavery victim's whereabouts at the time of exploitation is not always accurately recorded. Mr Hyland concluded: "There is a lack of professionalism in response. We need better policies, processes and funding."
The report includes an outline of the nature and scale of modern slavery experienced by Vietnamese nationals en route to, and within, the UK; the origins and motivations of Vietnamese nationals on the move; the roots and routes of Vietnamese nationals' exploitation; modern slavery experienced by Vietnamese nationals while in the UK; Vietnamese minors in the UK; National Referral Mechanism data quality and its consequences; and concluding recommendations.