A Ghanaian man who was trafficked to the UK and spent years trapped in modern slavery has won a significant victory in the court of appeal — and one that may see more survivors being granted permission to stay in the UK after escaping abuse.
One of the main challenges facing many foreign trafficking survivors is their immigration status and ability to stay in the country after they are rescued or escape exploitation. In the case of this man, he applied for leave to remain in the UK as a victim of trafficking once he escaped his traffickers. The Home Office accepted his account but nonetheless said it would send him back to Ghana. He challenged the decision, taking his case to the appeals court.
The Guardian explains that this legal ruling hinges on how the Home Office interprets European conventions on trafficking:
His appeal was based on a challenge to the home secretary’s interpretation of part of the Council of Europe’s convention on action against trafficking. The judges found that part of the home secretary’s guidance failed to reflect the obligations imposed by the convention.
The legal crux of the case is that according to Home Office guidance, one basis for granting a victim of trafficking leave to remain is if their personal circumstances are “compelling”. However, the convention simply states that a victim can be granted leave to remain if their stay is “necessary owing to their personal situation”.
The man’s lawyers argued that the Home Office guidance created a more onerous legal test. The court of appeal judges agreed with them.
The ruling by Lord Justice Hickinbottom, Lord Justice Singh and Lord Justice Patten increases the chances of victims of trafficking being granted protection in the UK.
This ruling has tremendous implications for those who have were denied leave to remain by the Home Office as their cases may be reconsidered. According to non-profit Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit, only 12% of victims of trafficking accepted by the Home Office currently have leave to remain.
Nina Rathbone-Pullen of Wilsons Solicitors, who represented the man, noted that “The Home Office is going to have to make a new decision in our client’s case. The question of whether a victim of trafficking should get leave to remain is tied to the UK’s obligations to provide protection and assistance to victims of trafficking.”
So far a spokesman for the Home Office said that “We are considering the implications of the judgment.”