Data released last weekend on the U.K.’s Anti-Slavery Day has revealed that of almost 4700 confirmed foreign victims of trafficking identified over the last four years, only 28 children were granted leave to remain.
Leave to remain is an immigration status that allows people a temporary right to stay in the U.K. if they have suffered extreme hardship.
Reporting on the data, which was retrieved by a Freedom of Information request, The Guardian highlights that of the 4695 foreign-born victims of modern slavery and trafficking identified in the U.K. since 2016, just 0.6 percent of children—28 in total—were granted discretionary leave to remain as trafficking victims, meaning the vast majority of victims face a serious threat of deportation.
Experts believe children could make up nearly half of the 4695 foreign-born victims of modern slavery and trafficking identified since 2016.
Without leave to remain, foreign-born children who are identified as victims of modern slavery are deported when they reach the age of 18, often back to countries they have no living memory of.
While the U.K. claims to be a world leader in tackling modern slavery, this data suggests that its actions do not meet its words.
While the figures have shocked anti-slavery campaigners, the situation could yet be proved to be worse, as the figures do not reveal how long children are granted discretionary leave for.
For nearly 75 percent of all trafficking survivors granted discretionary leave, the period lasted between seven months to a year, while 7.8 percent of survivors were only granted between zero to six months.
If these time periods are the same for children, experts say that the U.K. would be breaching international law, which says governments must offer children discretionary leave in accordance with the “best interests of the child” and a “durable solution.”
Speaking to The Guardian, Patricia Durr, chief executive of ECPAT UK said:
“We were shocked to find that, in a four-year period, only 28 child victims of trafficking were granted leave to stay at the discretion of the home secretary… It is equally shocking that we only know this through pursuing Freedom of Information requests, and we still only have a partial picture of immigration outcomes for children.”
Freedom United has gathered nearly 30,000 signatures calling on the U.K. government to better support victims of child trafficking, including by giving them leave to remain.
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