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Number of trafficking survivors in U.K. detention increases

  • Published on
    January 26, 2022
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  • Category:
    Human Trafficking, Law & Policy
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Alarming new data collected by FLEX, an organization working to end labor exploitation, has found that the number of trafficking survivors held in immigration detention in the U.K. has spiked over the past four years.

Number of trafficking survivors in detention increases tenfold

Under the National Referral Mechanism, the system through which trafficking survivors are identified and supported, individuals receive a positive reasonable grounds decision if they are a suspected trafficking survivor. 1,053 people in detention received a positive conclusive grounds decision in 2020 compared to 86 people in 2017.

Peter Wieltschnig from FLEX said, “This data demonstrates that the government’s immigration-enforcement-centred approach is failing victims. It shows a systemic failure in providing opportunities to disclose trafficking or modern slavery so that victims can be identified and supported rather than detained”.

“Immeasurable and unnecessary harm”

Freedom United is concerned that the numbers of trafficking survivors being detained in prison-like settings has increased significantly, indicating that insufficient safeguards are in place to identify trafficking survivors before they are detained.

The Guardian reports:

Under new rules, potential victims of trafficking who are placed in immigration detention are likely to have to provide medical evidence of future harm for officials to consider releasing them – the same rules that apply to others who are detained. Prior to the introduction of the new rules there was greater recognition of the vulnerability of this group.

The effects of immigration detention are devastating. With no time limit, people held in immigration detention are effectively kept in limbo indefinitely “causing immeasurable and unnecessary harm” according to Detention Action, a U.K. organization working to end immigration detention.

Mental health concerns

Last year, the Royal College of Psychiatrists urged the U.K. to cease detaining trafficking survivors on the basis of their extreme vulnerability to the risk of depression and suicide. Immigration detention does not have the mental health services that trafficking survivors may need access to.

Freedom United is urgently calling on the U.K. to release all suspected trafficking survivors from detention and cease detaining trafficking survivors in prison-like settings. Join the campaign today.


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