Hundreds of trafficking survivors are being wrongfully turned away by the U.K. government and denied the support they are entitled to. Data collected by Freedom United partner, data-mapping project After Exploitation, has uncovered a systematic effort by the Home Office to knowingly withhold support from potential trafficking survivors.
Trafficking survivors are identified and supported through the U.K.’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) system where they will receive a positive or negative decision on their claim.
Hundreds of trafficking survivors who appealed negative decisions had them overturned last year but there are likely to be many more survivors who have been denied support and have been unable to appeal their decisions, a process known as a “reconsideration”. While appeals can be requested, it is up to the Home Office to grant them.
The Independent reports:
The figures, obtained by data-mapping project After Exploitation through freedom of information (FOI) law, appear to show that of the 325 trafficking rejections that were appealed in 2020, 78 per cent were found to in fact be victims, a total of 255.
Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas Symonds described the new figures as “shameful”, adding: “The government promised to do more to help victims of human trafficking – some of the most vulnerable people on earth – yet this data shows their broken system is completely failing.”
This data demonstrates yet another effort by the Home Office to impede survivors’ access to support that is crucial to their recovery and wellbeing. Already this year we’ve seen the government press ahead with policies that will raise the threshold of evidence potential victims need to provide before they are formally recognized as victims of trafficking and granted access to support, despite warnings that this will lead to fewer victims being identified and will increase the risk of trafficking survivors being locked up indefinitely for breaching immigration rules.
Following the release of the recent data, Freedom United signed a joint statement with After Exploitation and a coalition of organizations stating: “a culture of disbelief within the current system routinely denies vulnerable people the entitlements they need to rebuild their lives after exploitation.”
There is an increasingly glaring dissonance between the U.K.’s claim to be a world leader in tackling modern slavery while it actively pursues policies that leave survivors without support, contributing to an environment ripe for traffickers to exploit.
Freedom United is urgently calling on the U.K. to provide guaranteed statutory support to victims of trafficking. Add your voice to the campaign today.