Survivors of Modern Slavery in Prisons: The Blind Spot of the UK Anti-Slavery Regime

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Dr. Marija Jovanovic, Lecturer in Law (University of Essex), has been awarded a research grant for the project on ‘The Survivors of Modern Slavery in Prisons: The Blind Spot of the UK Anti-Slavery Regime’ by the Modern Slavery and Human Rights Policy and Evidence Centre (The Modern Slavery PEC), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

The amount of the award is £250,000 for a 12-month project, which began in June 2022. The project team involves Dr. Jovanovic as a Principal Investigator (PI), Dr. Patrick Burland of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) UK as a Co-Investigator (Co-I), and a group of researchers from the Hibiscus Initiatives, a non-governmental organisation that works with prisoners.

The project investigates what happens to the survivors of modern slavery who end up in prisons in the United Kingdom and the extent to which the existing legislation and policies provide an opportunity for them to be identified and access the necessary support and assistance.

The project has two central objectives:

First, to provide a critical appraisal of the existing law and policy applicable to survivors of modern slavery in prisons in the UK and consider their compatibility with binding international obligations in this field. In doing so, we will identify the gaps and blind spots of the relevant laws and policies and articulate actions/reforms needed to bring domestic law and policy in line with the UK’s international obligations.

Second, to evaluate current institutional practices, which are meant to give effect to the relevant law and policy. In other words, even if the research finds that the applicable laws and policies are adequate and in line with international law, do practices follow their letter and spirit? We will seek to identify the reasons for discrepancies between the rules and their application and propose actions needed to bring practices in line with the rules.

The research is conducted through both the desktop analysis of the relevant sources using a doctrinal method as well as by interviewing the survivors of modern slavery who have been in prison in the UK and other stakeholders, such as the government officials, civil society actors, lawyers, and members of the prison administration.

This project is part of the portfolio of five projects examining the impact of wider laws and policies on modern slavery funded by the MSPEC. Further details about Marija’s and the other four projects included in the portfolio will be provided in a detailed announcement by the Modern Slavery PEC in due course.

The Modern Slavery PEC is an AHRC-funded, Strategic Priorities Fund Centre, created by the investment of public funding to enhance understanding of modern slavery and transform the effectiveness of laws and policies designed to address it. The Centre funds research and works with funded research to enhance the evidence it creates and maximise its impact potential.

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