Lack of support in UK leaving trafficking victims at risk of further exploitation

Victims of human traffickers face the risk of further exploitation after they have been rescued due to a lack of support in the UK, according to three charities which work with them.

The British Red Cross (BRC), Hestia and Ashiana say the Home Office policy of giving survivors 45 days of support leaves them vulnerable to traffickers again, with non-EU nationals the most at risk.

Data obtained by the BRC found that 752 people recognised as survivors of trafficking between 2015 and 2017 had no right to remain in the UK.

Without that right, survivors are unable to access accommodation, mental health support and financial assistance, the charities say.

They are now calling on the Home Office to provide support for at least one year to anyone recognised as a survivor of trafficking.

BRC head of policy and advocacy Naomi Phillips (pictured) said: “The situation is particularly bad for people without a secure immigration status and too often we see these people at risk of falling back into exploitation because they are unable to find somewhere to live or a way to feed themselves.”

The charities worked together on a 12-month pilot providing long-term support for survivors, helping 70 people from outside the EU.

The pilot found that without access to permanent accommodation, victims faced “exacerbated” mental health issues as well as the danger of being re-trafficked.

Half of those supported were women who had survived sexual exploitation.

Despite this, most were placed in mixed-sex accommodation.

Rachel Mullan-Feroze, service manager at Ashiana, said the findings highlighted the need for a “flexible response to trafficking and modern slavery which takes into account individual needs and circumstances.

“It also highlights how immigration status underpins the ability for a survivor to resettle safely – without which, many survivors are at real risk of re-victimisation.”

Abigail Ampofo, operations director at Hestia, said: “Modern slavery is rife in our communities and the need for long-term support is vital to ensure victims can rebuild their lives.

“Without this support, we know that many victims are forced back into slavery and the cycle of abuse continues.

“We hope the Government’s Modern Slavery Act reflects the need for long-term support for victims and remains a world-renowned piece of legislation.”

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