Theresa May’s modern slavery bill is being abused by allowing criminal migrants to claim they are under 18 and the victims of trafficking in order to avoid arrest, according to an investigation by the Sunday Times.
The Modern Slavery Bill — which was introduced to protect workers trafficked into the country to work in cannabis farms, nail bars, or even as prostitutes — contains protections for minors that says they are to be protected from prosecution if they’re involved in criminal activity. However, many adults who are caught engaging in such professions are claiming to be under 18 in order to avoid prosecution.
The Sunday Times report says that they have been shown documents that refer to multiple instances of Vietnamese adult criminals being placed into foster care under the system as they claimed to be under 18.
In one instance, a worker at a cannabis factory claimed he was 15 years old and had been trafficked to the UK. The Crown Prosecution Service advised against pressing charges because police could not prove he was not a child, with officers saying: “He was clearly an adult conspiring to grow large amounts of cannabis.”
The criminal adult migrant was then placed in social care and went missing after three days. The police even listed the man as a vulnerable missing child. When he was discovered, and claimed again that he was 15, he was housed in foster care, but went missing once more. His whereabouts remain unknown.
One officer, Detective Sergeant Stuart Peall, head of Lancashire constabulary’s exploitation team, said: “How do you prove the age of a foreign national inside 24 hours who won’t even tell you their real name? In most cases it is simply impossible. Age assessments take weeks. There is no way of doing it inside that timescale. The law means there is a presumption they are under 18 unless we can prove otherwise within hours of arrest.”
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A government report from April 2018 revealed that 65 per cent of alleged unaccompanied migrant minors whose age was under question were found to be adults. The investigation followed public concern in 2016 of the age of ‘minor’ migrants being allowed to come to the UK under the Dubs amendment, where some ‘child refugees’ being brought over from Calais appeared much older than children.
In November 2018, the Home Office admitted a grown man, an asylum seeker from Iran, had been placed at Stoke High School in Ipswich. The migrant was removed from the class and an investigation opened into how the Home Office had incorrectly assessed the age of the individual in the first place. The issue came to light after 15-year-old pupils shared pictures on social media of a clearly adult-looking ‘student’ in school uniform, with one child writing: “How’s there a 30-year-old man in our maths class?”
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