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PROJECTS

Addressing lack of access to legal advice for survivors of modern slavery

Adequate, timely, and effective access to quality legal assistance remains a critical concern for people with lived experience of modern slavery, despite recognition of the transformative impact of legal advice on access to protection and recovery.

BIICL's project, in partnership with Unseen UK, seeks to assess the impacts on access to protection and recovery of the inability for people with lived experiences of modern slavery to access adequate and timely legal advice.

The right to legal assistance is enshrined in international and regional instruments, and it has been emphasised as a key element of protection and recovery across various soft law and treaty body measures. The transformative impact of legal advice and representation on survivors of modern slavery has increasingly been recognised. Yet, effective access to quality legal assistance remains a critical concern for people with lived experience of modern slavery.

Lack of access to adequate and timely legal services triggers a series of negative impacts. These include difficulties in accessing and navigating the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), limited access to existing rights (such as welfare rights and compensation) and available services, which are critical to support recovery, and increased risk of re-trafficking or removal from the United Kingdom. While these impacts have been widely acknowledged, gaps remain in the understanding of survivors' perspectives on the way in which access to legal services assists their wellbeing and recovery.

The research team will map relevant obligations and standards to the delivery of available, accessible, and quality legal assistance to people with lived experiences of modern slavery, as well as law firms, law centres, NGOs and others that are providing or facilitating access to legal advice for people with lived experiences of modern slavery. It will also assess the impact on the recovery and wellbeing for people with lived experiences of modern slavery. Finally, the team will identify promising practices promoting access to legal advice for people with lived experiences of modern slavery.

Data will be collected through a survey targeting anti-trafficking stakeholders and legal practitioners, aimed at examining their perception of the scale of not accessing legal advice by modern slavery survivors and what they think would support enhanced access to it. It will also include two sets of focus groups (supplemented by interviews as appropriate), one with people with lived experience of modern slavery and another with NGOs and those facilitating legal advice.

The project will produce a research report and a policy brief highlighting findings and recommendations for policy development. The project will also develop tools to facilitate and encourage similar research to be undertaken in other jurisdictions. The project runs from April 2022 to September 2022 with outputs expected from August 2022 onwards.

Researchers: Jean-Pierre Gauci, Noemi Magugliani, John Trajer (BIICL), Lauren Saunders (Unseen UK)

This project was funded through an open call, under the Policy and Evidence Centre on Modern Slavery and Human Rights' Responsive Research mechanism. 

Access the stakeholder survey here .

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