MPs are speaking out against UK Home Office rules that prevent survivors of modern slavery from enrolling in publicly-funded education.
The rules specifically state that victims of trafficking and modern slavery from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) cannot enroll, regardless of whether they are applying for asylum or face deportation.
Related Campaign: Secure Stephen’s recovery from human trafficking.
Labour MP Stephanie Peacock, a vocal critic, said “Denying them an education is both cruel and stupid.”
“Empowered with skills and knowledge, they could go on to make a great contribution to our society, and we can address a terrible injustice at the same time,” she added.
The HuffPost reports:
Around 800 modern slavery victims from outside the EEA were registered via the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in the first three months of 2018, with thousands also referred in previous years.
Scores of victims outside this group have also been placed on immigration bail, which means they are at risk of arrest and deportation should they seek to study.
Labour MPs have also said others lacking refugee status and without the paperwork to immediately prove their identity are also automatically ineligible to study.
In the meantime, the Northern College in Barnsley has stepped up to offer free basic skills courses to survivors using its own reserves, making it the only institution in the country to do so. So far the college has supported the education costs for an Albanian woman trafficked for sexual exploitation and two male victims of forced labor.
Chris Lamb, co-ordinator of the course, which is called the Free Thinking Project, said: “Basically, what we have done is raid our own savings on this occasion and have propped it up from our own reserves.”
Currently, victims of modern slavery are able to access basic healthcare, housing, and £37.50 benefits a week for 90 days, but a spokesman for the Home Office confirmed that this support does not include access to education.
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Congratulations to Northern College. How crazy that education, which empowers people, can offer them a safe and positive environment, and may through social interaction offer peer support, is denied to abused and vulnerable people. Compared to the cost of bringing the criminals responsible to justice I suspect the cost is low, and the benefit substantial.