Victims of trafficking must be given permission to remain in the UK, as per Supreme Court rules on immigration and asylum
The Supreme Court, in a landmark ruling, said that thousands of trafficking victims who have been left in the immigration system for years should be given leave to remain.
Prior to the ruling, people who had been accepted by the UK government as foreign trafficking victims could have been returned to their countries of origin, where they would be at risk of being trafficked again by the same criminals.
For this reason, many apply for asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK. Then they have to wait years in a legal limbo before their applications to remain in the UK can be processed before home office and the courts.
During that time they cannot work, study, or access mainstream benefits. Many say their emotional recovery from trafficking should be put off while they wait, because they are unable to move on with their lives.
Tuesday’s ruling ordered that this group of human trafficking victims who have requested leave to remain in the UK be collectively granted. This will apply to thousands of recognized victims of trafficking. If the Home Office decides to appeal, it must apply for permission to do so by October 19.
The ruling came on the heels of a legal challenge against the Ministry of Interior by a 33-year-old Vietnamese woman whose name has not been released for legal reasons. She was forced to have sex in Vinh, Vietnam for about six months in 2016 before smugglers forced her to the UK, passing several countries on the way, including Russia, Ukraine and France before arriving in November 2016 in the back of a truck.
Between November 2016 and March 2018, she was forced to work in brothels and produce cannabis. In April 2018, she was recognized as a trafficking victim, but in October 2018 she was charged with conspiracy to produce cannabis and pleaded guilty in Preston Crown Court. In December 2018, she was sentenced to 28 months in prison.
In May 2019, her lawyers referred her again for a trafficking assessment, but the Home Office said it had no record of her case in their system. In July 2019, the Ministry of Interior found her trafficking records, but in October 2019 locked her up in an immigration detention center.
Although she has been recognized as a victim of trafficking by the Ministry of Interior, her asylum application is still ongoing, and so she has started legal proceedings against the Minister of Interior.
The devastating impact of her experience in human trafficking was made clear in the evidence presented to the court. She was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression.
In his ruling, Justice Linden said: “The effect of the refusal to grant the claimant leave of modern slavery is that they are subject to the so-called hostile environment supported by the Immigration Act of 2014.”
The lawyer for the trafficking victim, Ahmed Aideed of Duncan Lewis Law Firm, welcomed the ruling. He said: “We are pleased that our client, and other survivors of human trafficking, will no longer be left to live in this hemisphere, this legal predicament that has stripped them of their dignity and subjected them to further exploitation.
“Recovery is a vital form of relief for trafficking survivors, and this will go a long way to assisting victims in their physical, psychological and social recovery. Our client and other survivors will finally have access to education and training and will finally have the right to work. Not only will this help trafficking survivors, but It will also provide a direct financial benefit to the public treasury.”