The U.K. government cut financial support for trafficking survivors who had claimed asylum and were being housed in hotels in July 2020. Now a court has ruled the policy was unlawful and that those affected are entitled to back payments.
Some survivors turned to begging to meet basic needs
Trafficking survivors seeking asylum were previously eligible for weekly payments of £65 – approximately, $85. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, some of these people were moved from self-contained accommodation into hotels. With the move, the payments stopped.
The withdrawal of financial support left thousands without basic necessities, such as sanitary products. Reports suggest some people were forced to beg to cover their needs.
Case brought by a Ghanaian who had escaped from modern slavery
Legal action against this policy was taken, triggering a U-turn from the Home Office on August, 30.
“The case was brought by a man who was trafficked from Ghana to the UK in March 2011. He was held captive in a property in Birmingham and forced to work for his captors. He was physically abused with beatings before escaping. In November 2019, he was arrested as an illegal immigrant and identified as a potential victim of trafficking. In March 2020, he was provided with government support and placed in temporary accommodation in a hotel, receiving £35 a week support and three meals a day.
On 10 July 2020 his financial support was cut off before later being reinstated at a lower rate.”
Court finds the policy unlawful
Deputy high court judge Peter Marquand found this policy change unlawful on December, 17. The details of how back payments will be made will be decided in a separate court hearing.
Ahmed Aydeed of Duncan Lewis solicitors, the firm that brought the case, said: “We welcome the court’s ruling and hope survivors can now finally get the basic support they were entitled to and they so desperately need. However we will never know how many survivors were re-trafficked and fell back into debt bondage due to the home secretary’s unlawful action.”
Join the campaign calling on the U.K. to guarantee statutory support for all survivors of modern slavery.