On Anti-Slavery Day, LCN joins over 50 organisations and experts in calling for action on protecting trafficked migrants.
The joint open letter has told the Prime Minister that the UK government’s “exclusive focus” on immigration control is having “harmful” effects on victims of human trafficking, and urged him to commit to do more to support them.
The letter, signed by more than 50 different organisations and experts, including LCN, notes that, in 2019, 1,256 potential trafficking victims were held in prison-like detention centres due to their immigration status. Out of these cases, 42 have already been confirmed as having been trafficked and many more are projected to follow.
To date, only 35 traffickers have been convicted. This means that, due to the lack of immigration protection, more survivors are held behind bars than perpetrators. Traffickers are aware of this, and often use the threat of detention and forced removal to ensure compliance from their victims.
The letter also warns that the proposed policy changes to prejudge asylum claims using the time that the claim is made, or the route by which the claimant arrives, may only embolden traffickers and harm survivors:
“Victims of trafficking often have no choice but to claim asylum months or years after first entering the country. This will impact many survivors, for whom the factors that made them vulnerable to traffickers in the first place will pose further threats upon removal.”
The letter also argues that the government must change its narrative about human trafficking. In recent months, home secretary Priti Patel has placed an increased focus on immigration control, repeatedly asserting her intention to prevent “illegal” Channel crossings and make the small-boat route from France “unviable”. Rejecting the claim that tougher borders act as a strong preventative measure against human trafficking, the letter stated that a lack of safe and legal routes and policies that deter victims from seeking help only sustain trafficking.
Our call on the government is threefold:
- Ban detaining potential and confirmed victims of trafficking
- Consider asylum applications on merit, recognising that many applicants have no choice but to arrive spontaneously or claim asylum after having been in the UK for some time
- Provide survivors with at least 12 months’ support and immigration protection, to ensure that they are supported to pursue justice where it is right for them.