In a recent U.K. High Court ruling, the current modern slavery support system has been found to discriminate against trafficked mothers seeking asylum.
The Guardian reports that two single Albanian mothers, who are survivors of sex trafficking, were denied childcare support by the U.K.’s interior ministry, leaving both with no other option but to have their children accompany them to legal, medical and counseling appointments.
The process was traumatic for both the women and their children. Additionally, they could not fully access counseling services since they were sensitive to speaking frankly of their experiences in front of the children.
Mr. Justice Kerr in his ruling deemed this lack of support “egregious” and discriminatory.
Current modern slavery policies entitle victims with children to receive childcare support. However, those who are also seeking asylum do not qualify, purportedly because they are already receiving support through the asylum program – even if it does not include childcare.
Justice Kerr finds this practice discriminatory as recipients of other forms of support, such as welfare benefits, are still eligible for childcare assistance.
According to the Guardian,
The Home Office admitted it treated this group differently but told the court that despite this they should not be entitled to any remedy.
This is but the latest mark against the U.K.’s modern slavery support system. Despite longstanding claims of leading the world in protecting modern slavery victims, the Home Office has implemented policies that survivors, advocates, legal experts and mental health experts find particularly harmful to trafficking survivors.
One of the defendant’s lawyers told the Guardian,
“We hope that the Home Office sets up a redress scheme to ensure all survivors in the NRM [the national referral mechanism for victims of modern slavery] get back-payments and that going forward, all survivors are provided with adequate financial support, including child trafficking payments and free childcare.”
Both women are to receive the equivalent of backpay for childcare in addition to compensation for the “distress caused by the discrimination.”
In his ruling, the judge stated that “The claimants are highly vulnerable people who have been poorly treated … Both have suffered much.”
It goes without saying that support systems for trafficking survivors, by their very purpose, should not increase survivors’ suffering.
Yet migration concerns continue to unduly influence policies affecting survivors. The Freedom United community believes that immigration status should not affect access to fundamental support services. Our campaign to stop the detention of survivors is particularly aimed at this unjust treatment of migrant survivors.
Sign the petition and join the global call on governments to stop detaining trafficking survivors and release all potential and confirmed survivors from detention.