Number of trafficking victims held in detention centres doubles
The number of potential trafficking victims being held in prison-like settings has more than doubled in 12 months, despite guidance which says they should be housed and supported.
A total of 1,256 potential victims of modern slavery and human trafficking were held in immigration detention centres by the Home Office in 2019 – up from 507 in 2018. The potential victims were detained under immigration powers but were in fact legally entitled to support, including counselling and access to a safe house.
The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests made by data mapping project After Exploitation, and relate to the period January 1, 2019, to September 30, 2019.
A spokesman for global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice said: “Victims of trafficking and modern day slavery have already faced unthinkable abuse at the hands of those who were exploiting them. To then hold them in detention centres is to extend their period of suffering. Victims should be supported and given both short and long-term care to help with their ongoing recovery.”
The figures related to immigration detainees who were found to be potential trafficking victims before, during or after time spent in immigration detention centres last year.
After Exploitation has argued that the 1,256 potential victims have been “subjected to a secondary form of imprisonment” after escaping exploitation. Maya Esslemont, director of After Exploitation, said: “Victims of slavery are often held by their abusers in restrictive, psychologically damaging conditions. This data suggests that hundreds – if not thousands – of potential victims are being subjected to a secondary form of imprisonment even after they escape exploitation. We are seriously concerned that, since our initial findings in 2019, no meaningful safeguards have been put in place to prevent the detention of slavery survivors in need of support.”
In July last year, the then Immigration Minister, Caroline Nokes, pledged to reduce the number of people detained and “protect the vulnerable”.
The Home Office oversees a detention safeguard called ‘Detention Gatekeeping’ which is meant to identify immigrants too vulnerable to detain, including those who have been trafficked. The government is also responsible for identifying human trafficking victims and deciding who is a trafficking victim, through a process called the National Referral Mechanism.
Hope for Justice has signed a petition urging government to commit to “data transparency” on the outcomes of modern slavery survivors.
Sign the #SupportedOrDeported petition at change.org/p/uk-government-release-data-on-human-trafficking-and-slavery.
10-year-old girl rescued from sexual slavery
A 10-year-old schoolgirl has been rescued from a horrendous cycle of sexual abuse after people living nearby were trained to spot the signs of slavery by Hope for Justice.
The girl, Anita*, was turned into a slave by a relative who exploited her vulnerabilities on a regular basis. Anita became increasingly withdrawn and was in pain as a result of her abuse. Her plight was uncovered by neighbors in the community where she lives – a village in rural Uganda – after they received training from global anti-trafficking charity Hope for Justice on how to recognise the indicators of exploitation.
Police carried out a raid on the family home in response to their concerns, and rescued the girl in November. Officers referred Anita to one of Hope for Justice’s Lighthouses – a safe haven for children who have been abused and exploited, or who have been vulnerable to exploitation.
A police chief at the Ugandan Children and Family Protection Unit said: “We have no facilities to shelter these vulnerable children and so Hope for Justice is the organisation we depend on for their care and protection. We are incredibly thankful for everything that they are doing.”
Hope for Justice’s team of trained professionals are providing trauma-informed care and psychotherapy sessions to help with her recovery. Anita has received medical care for physical injuries that she sustained during the abuse, and is also attending counselling sessions.
She has also been attending lessons at Hope for Justice’s Shine School at the Lighthouse, an education and career centre for children and young people who have been exploited. She is being given access to life skills, including personal hygiene and health, as well as attending classes alongside peers.
Today, her life is so different. Anita said: “I hope to become a doctor when I am older. I am glad I will never go back to that home.”
*Name changed to protect identity
Raising awareness as part of National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month
January 2020 is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, as decreed by presidential proclamation. January is also known as Human Trafficking Awareness Month. It is a key time for us all as individuals to educate ourselves about human trafficking and crucially to learn to spot the signs of trafficking. It is also a time for us take these messages to our workplaces, our churches, our schools, our representatives and everywhere else.
At Hope for Justice, we investigate cases of human trafficking and work closely with law enforcement to rescue victims and ensure evidence is gathered against perpetrators to see them brought to justice. Our team of investigators is drawn from some of the most respected and prestigious law enforcement agencies in the country, such as the FBI and NCIS.
National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, January 2020, culminates in the annual observation of National Freedom Day on February 1, 2020.
We believe that awareness leads to action – so everything you can do where you live to help raise awareness could ultimately help rescue more victims of human trafficking. We need more people to be aware of the facts and of the signs and to feel confident to report their concerns to an expert group like Hope for Justice.
Hope for Justice has created a library of resources for your use during National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, including downloadable posters that can be printed and social media graphics to share.
Visit hopeforjustice.org/national-slavery-and-human-trafficking-prevention-month/ to find out more.