An extremely vulnerable young victim of trafficking and sexual exploitation has been failed several times by the UK’s interior ministry which refused to provide a safe space for her as required under the law.
After being retrafficked by drug gangs, forced into prostitution, and on the verge of becoming homeless, the high court stepped in and demanded that the Home Office provide the British woman with safe accommodation.
The young woman, aged 22 years old, was raised in foster care where it is reported she was sexually abused as a child. She has since been the victim of trafficking for sexual exploitation after gangs took advantage of her vulnerability to advertise her for sexual services on the internet and forced her to commit drug-related crimes.
These experiences seriously affected her physical and mental health and, despite the Home Office identifying her as a potential victim of trafficking in June 2019, she was not provided with any support.
With no safe accommodation to seek refuge in, she was retrafficked by her exploiters and eventually admitted to a mental health facility after the police found her walking along the side of a motorway. Repeated requests to the Home Office from hospital staff to find her safe housing were ignored.
It was only in January 2020 that the Home Office replied to the requests claiming that there were “no appropriate safe-house places available” due to her mental health needs.
However, an intervention by the high court resulted in emergency 24-hour support being found just hours before she was due to be discharged from the hospital onto the street.
The Guardian reports:
“The failure to provide our client with the specialist support and accommodation to which she was legally entitled has had devastating consequences, including her having been repeatedly re-trafficked, sexually assaulted and financially exploited,” said Rachael Davis, a solicitor at Duncan Lewis.
“Our client was recognised as a victim of modern slavery as long ago as June 2019, yet she was not provided with a safe place to live until January 2020 – and only once we had obtained a court order compelling the secretary of state for the home department to do so.
“It is wholly unacceptable to refuse to provide specialist support and accommodation to a victim of modern slavery because their needs are too complex. Ultimately these are the people who need it the most.”
While the UK government has positioned itself as a global leader in tackling modern slavery, delays in granting adequate, long-term support for victims is leaving people vulnerable to retrafficking and retraumatization.
This story is just one example of how important it is for victims to receive specialist long-term support and access to other services to prevent the risk of retrafficking, overcome traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives.
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