A new study has revealed that thousands of potential trafficking victims in the U.K. are not referred for vital services—despite government pledges to support them.
Potential victims of trafficking that come into contact with authorities are entitled to access to crucial services such as legal advice, housing, and translators.
But figures obtained by data mapping project After Exploitation shows that while local authorities refer almost all potential victims for support, some national agencies refer far fewer— and some less than a fifth.
The Gangmaster and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), for example, only referred 19% of those it identified as potential victims of trafficking last summer for support; the UK Border Force referred just over half.
Overall, the data showed that over 80 percent of trafficking victims were referred for support. But with vast differences between different first responders, the potential for victims to find themselves unsupported is of deep concern.
The Guardian reports:
Maya Esslemont, the director of After Exploitation, said: “Worryingly, victims are less likely to be referred for vital support, such as safe housing, counselling or legal representation, depending on the first responder they come into contact with. Currently it is impossible to guarantee that potential victims are knowingly accepting or rejecting help, as not all are provided with legal representation, a translator or safe spaces at their most vulnerable.”
The lack of support is exacerbated by the fact that UK government laws bar asylum seekers from employment, therefore preventing many victims of trafficking from working and supporting themselves.
After Exploitation’s study comes after a trafficking survivor’s legal case challenging the government on these laws has been allowed to proceed by a high court judge.
The Kosovar woman escaped domestic slavery in early 2018, but over two years later, she is still waiting for a decision on her case and cannot legally work as a cleaner.
The outcome of her case could have major implications for survivors of modern slavery across the U.K., for whom the inability to work leads to poverty, trauma, and the risk of re-exploitation.
In just the past six months, Freedom United and partners have gathered over 90,000 signatures calling on the U.K. government to legalize employment for asylum seekers like the woman in question.
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