Campaigners call for Government to publish data on treatment of trafficking victims

Campaigners have called on the Government to make public data on victims of human trafficking and slavery being held in immigration detention centres to stop people who need support “slipping through the net”.

Group After Exploitation has set up a petition for its campaign #SupportedorDeported?

The data mapping project uses Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to try to track what happens to victims of trafficking and slavery.

The organisation claims fresh analysis of Home Office data indicates more than half (53%) of potential trafficking victims who were classed as leaving the UK voluntarily last year did so after being held in detention centres.

The figures, obtained through FOIs, have prompted fears their experience influenced the decision to leave without the support they were entitled to – and may have left them at risk of being targeted by traffickers again.

Earlier this month the group published research which suggested hundreds of potential trafficking and slavery victims were being held in immigration detention centres – with Home Office figures indicating more than 500 potential victims were detained under immigration powers in the UK last year.

Meanwhile Women for Refugee Women (WRW) claimed in a separate report victims of modern slavery and sex trafficking were being “failed” by the Home Office.

Last month MPs heard calls for a ban on the policy after professionals working with victims described the approach as detention for “administrative convenience”.

To mark the launch of the petition, an open letter signed by some 30 organisations has been circulated which said: “Human trafficking is recognised as a serious criminal offence, which often leaves survivors with a legacy of physical and emotional abuse.

“Yet, we now know that many rebuilding their lives after slavery must also live with the threat of deportation or detention by UK authorities.

“We believe that a lack of data transparency has allowed trafficking victims slip through the net, and that accountability is needed to protect survivors.”

After Exploitation was joined by organisations like Anti-Slavery International, Avid (Association for Visitors in Detention), Detention Action, Equality Now, Liberty, Migrant Voice, and WRW in signing the letter.

After Exploitation director Maya Esslemont said: “Victims of human trafficking should be supported, so that they are in the best possible mental and physical health when deciding how they want to rebuild their lives.

“We are concerned that such a high portion of ‘voluntary’ returns are taking place during or after time spent in prison-like settings.

“Victims should not have to choose between fear of UK authorities and fear of the risks facing them in the original site of exploitation.

“We demand the Government monitor what happens to victims of trafficking upon return, and release data on trafficking support, detention and deportation outcomes.”

Pierre Makhlouf, assistant director at Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) said it had “serious concerns that vulnerable people are being coerced into going home through the punitive use of immigration detention” and called upon Home Secretary Priti Patel to “immediately end the detention of victims of trafficking.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The Government is committed to protecting the vulnerable and treating those in detention with dignity and respect, including identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery.

“The Voluntary Returns Service includes help with reintegration and we work closely with other governments and organisations to ensure victims continue to receive support and to prevent re-trafficking.”

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