Foreign trafficking victims say applying for asylum in the UK is a deeply frustrating process that often takes years, leaving survivors in legal limbo, barred from working, and suffering from poor health.

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Rose, who was trafficked to the Britain from Nigeria when she was just 21, endured years of sexual abuse before escaping. She is now a 43-year-old single mother, and she has been waiting for three years for a decision on her asylum application.

“It’s just a terrible, terrible system, keeping you with no answers. It’s very inhumane. They don’t treat you like a human being. You don’t have rights. You’re in a prison because you don’t have a life of your own,” she said.

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:

The Home Office said on its website that asylum seekers usually get a decison on their applications within six months.

“We are modernising our processes and have established a new team to focus on more complex cases to make sure that they are decided faster,” a Home Office spokesman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“We are committed to transforming the asylum system.”

By the end of 2017, more than 14,000 asylum cases were awaiting a decision, a 25 percent increase on the previous year, the charity Refugee Action said in a study that described the asylum system as “hostile”.

Through Britain’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM), people who say they have been enslaved receive counselling, housing and legal aid while the government decides whether to recognise them as victims.

Once identified, they can apply for asylum but they are not allowed to work while awaiting a decision, relying instead on a weekly government stipend of about 37 pounds ($49).

Ehsan was trafficked to Britain from Iran and spent two and a half years waiting for decision on his asylum case. He was finally granted asylum last year, but doctors have declared him unfit to work due to his mental health.

“It is tough for anybody, let alone me who has been through human trafficking,” he said. “I’m still isolated because of what happened to me. I can’t trust anybody. I’ve got no hope for the future.”

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