Landmark judgment could see trafficking survivors granted leave to remain

A week after losing a legal challenge regarding its policy that denies asylum seekers the right to work, the U.K. Home Office, which is responsible for immigration, security, and law and order, has once against fallen short in the eyes of the law regarding its treatment of trafficking survivors.

The landmark ruling from the High Court that survivors seeking asylum should be automatically granted leave to remain in the U.K. is signficant and supports the calls of over 82,000 Freedom United supporters who have been calling for all survivors to be granted secure immigration status so that they may recover from their experiences.

The Guardian reports,

The ruling followed a legal challenge against the Home Office by a 33-year-old Vietnamese woman who cannot be named for legal reasons. She was forced into sex work in Vinh City in Vietnam for about six months in 2016 before being forced to the UK by her traffickers, passing through several countries on the way, including Russia, Ukraine and France before arriving in November 2016 in the back of a lorry.

Between November 2016 and March 2018 she was forced to work in brothels and in cannabis production. In April 2018 she was recognised as a victim of trafficking, yet in October 2018 she was charged with conspiring to produce cannabis and pleaded guilty at Preston crown court. In December 2018 she was sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment.

In May 2019 her lawyers again referred her for a trafficking assessment but the Home Office said it had no record of her case in their system. In July 2019 the Home Office found her trafficking records but in October 2019 locked her up in immigration detention.

Now, thanks to her case, the High Court has ruled that thousands of trafficking survivors in legal limbo, without the ability to work, study or access benefits, should be granted leave to remain in the U.K. which means they would be able to access the support they need to recover from their traumatic experiences.

The ruling could also have implications for trafficking survivors deported by the U.K. every year as more survivors may choose to now apply for asylum.

The U.K. is infamous for its discriminatory policies regarding migrants and has come under fire from advocates, lawyers, and mental health experts for creating a hostile environment that revictimizes trafficking survivors instead of offering them protection.

Indeed, presiding Justice Linden noted in his ruling that, “The effect of the refusal to grant the claimant modern slavery leave is that she is subject to the so-called hostile environment underpinned by the Immigration Act 2014.”

The Home Office has until October 19 to appeal the decision.

While this is a welcome step, it only currently applies to trafficking survivors who have applied for asylum. The Freedom United community believes that immigration status should not affect access to fundamental support services, and we are urgently calling on the U.K. to grant all survivors secure immigration status so that they may recover from their experiences and rebuild their lives.

Join the campaign today.

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