Alison Logier, Director of Modern Slavery Response, Hestia

This week, the Home Affairs Select Committee’s new report Asylum and migration: Albania has generated headlines around the claim that there is “little evidence” that Albanians are at risk and need asylum in the UK.

But for victims of modern slavery, it is crucial that we look beyond the headlines to where the Committee has explicitly outlined the risks to victims:

“There are, though, unquestionably cases of Albanian citizens being trafficked to the UK, whose protection must be guaranteed before they are returned to Albania. Women, in particular, may be disproportionately trafficked and disproportionately at risk on return to Albania, and the Government must be certain of their safety before returns are implemented.”

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has also published its legislative scrutiny of the Illegal Migration Bill this week, calling on the government to remove Albania from the list of ‘safe’ states in the Bill:

“Whilst the states listed in clause 57 (EEA plus Switzerland and Albania) may be considered to be safe ‘in general’, this does not guarantee their safety for all individuals, particularly those who are members of a particular social group such as female victims of trafficking.”

As a leading modern slavery charity, this echoes what we hear daily from Albanian survivors of trafficking. Even though their home country may be considered ‘safe’, the risks posed by both organised crime gangs and their families and communities are a reality feared by many.

Our Underground Lives: Pregnancy and Modern Slavery research shed light on Albanian women’s perspective of going back to Albania:

“Albanian women told us that their families would never accept them back, with some expressing fear for their lives if they returned. This was particularly painful for pregnant women who, at this particularly vulnerable time, craved the love and support of their own mothers.”

As legislation with far reaching consequences for victims of modern slavery is making its way through parliament, it is more crucial than ever that these nuances are not lost. Otherwise, we risk putting extremely vulnerable people back into a cycle of exploitation.