The Trade in Human Beings: Human Trafficking in the UK - Home Affairs Committee Contents


Memorandum submitted by Amnesty International UK

  1.  Amnesty International (AI) is a world-wide membership movement. Amnesty International's vision is of a world in which every person enjoys all of the human rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments. In pursuit of this vision, Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and action focused on preventing and ending grave abuses of these rights.

  2.  The United Kingdom national section of Amnesty International (AIUK) has prepared this submission. AIUK welcomes the decision of the Home Affairs Select Committee to undertake an inquiry into trafficking.

  3.  AI has been working on the issue of trafficking for a number of years and has produced several reports on trafficking in Russia, Israel, Kosovo and Indonesia. It was also involved in the development of the Council of Europe Convention Against Trafficking in Human Beings. AIUK has been working on trafficking in the UK since 2004. AIUK has been a member of the NGO Stakeholder Group on Human Trafficking since the end of 2005 and sits on an advisory group to the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

  4.  Trafficking in persons is a worldwide phenomenon. It affects men and boys, as well as women and girls, and victims can be trafficked for a range of exploitative purposes. As most of the work that AIUK has done on trafficking has been in the context of our Stop Violence Against Women Campaign the scope of this submission is largely limited to the treatment and protection of women and girls who are trafficked into the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation and domestic servitude. However many of the problems and needs identified and recommendations made in this submission are relevant to all trafficked persons. Trafficked children are particularly vulnerable and will require additional safeguards in relation to their identification, support and protection which we do not address in this submission.

  5.  The findings in this submission are based on research and interviews conducted with legal practitioners, service providers and NGOs from December 2006 to March 2007 and have been updated in January 2008. A list of case summaries is annexed to the submission illustrating our findings.

  6.  AIUK welcomed the signature of Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (henceforth referred to as ECAT) in March 2007 and recognises the efforts of the UK Government to prepare for ratification of ECAT by the end of 2008 including the development of the UK Action Plan on Tackling Human Trafficking (March 2007). This submission will review Government measures relating to the treatment of victims (identification, support and accommodation, immigration and asylum protection and non punishment) and to what degree these meet the standards of protection required under ECAT.

THE SCALE AND TYPE OF ACTIVITY

  7.  As other organisations will provide the Committee with an overview of current statistics on trafficking in the UK we do not intend to duplicate that information here. We refer the Committee to AIUK's 2006 submission to the Joint Committee of Human Rights Inquiry into Trafficking of Human Beings in which we set out detailed information on the profile of women and girls trafficked into sexual exploitation, the methods that traffickers use to control victims and the impact of trafficking on the physical and mental health of victims.

  8.  AIUK is concerned about the continuing paucity of reliable statistics across all forms of trafficking particularly forced labour and domestic servitude and the disproportionate focus on trafficking as a form of organised immigration crime. AIUK believes that the appointment of a National Rapporteur would lead to an improvement in data collection and research across all forms of trafficking. A National Rapporteur should have powers to request information from public bodies, review the impact of anti-trafficking plans on victims and make policy recommendations. A similar model has been used in the Netherlands and Sweden.

IDENTIFICATION

  9.  Correct identification and referral of victims to appropriate support services lies at the heart of any system to protect trafficked persons. Under ECAT identification by competent authorities acts as the passport to a range of rights intended to help a trafficked person escape from the influence of traffickers and begin a process of recovery through access to healthcare, support and accommodation and access to legal advice. Conversely a failure to be identified will lead to a denial of basic support and in the case of those with irregular immigration status could also lead to immigration detention, criminalisation and removal back to the country of origin without any risk assessment as to the risk of harm or re-trafficking on return.

  10.  AIUK recognizes that both the police and immigration authorities have made considerable efforts to improve identification rates through the training of staff, the development of guidance on indicators and the creation of specialist anti-trafficking units. However, practitioners AIUK has interviewed continue to raise concerns about the failure of a wide range of authorities including immigration, police and social services to identify trafficked persons. Some of the failures have been by officials with expertise on trafficking.

  11.  Past research has shown that immigration officials and to a lesser degree police officers are less likely to make positive identifications of trafficked persons than NGOs and front line practitioners.[165] This is because of problems trafficked persons face in disclosing what has happened to them but also problems with the capacity and willingness of the police and immigration officers to make identifications. For trafficked persons difficulties including physical and mental health problems, shame, fear of removal from the UK, fear of being criminalized, fear of traffickers and of the authorities may prevent victims from recognizing they have been trafficked or from disclosing that they are trafficked especially to the police and immigration. In case information that AIUK has received trafficked persons have explicitly stated that they would not approach the police as they do not believe that they will help them and also fear being arrested.

  12.  On the part of the authorities there are several factors that make it more difficult for police and immigration officers to make positive identifications. Failures are often rooted in a lack of awareness about diagnostic indicators, especially those relating to non—sexual exploitation. For example Kalayaan, the leading NGO that supports migrant domestic workers, has found that when workers report the theft of their passports by employers (a key indicator of forced labour/trafficking) police are more interested in the immigration status of the victim rather than investigation the theft of the passport. However the failure to identify can also be rooted in a culture of disbelief where officials are less likely to believe that persons with illegal or irregular immigration status are credible. In these cases officials are more likely to identify the victim as an illegal entrant, worker or prostitute rather than as a trafficked person, even if they have knowledge on trafficking. Police may also be reluctant to refer on potential trafficked persons to support services for fearing of losing intelligence or a possible prosecution witness. When these factors are combined with the pressures that police and immigration officials face to meet targets for intelligence, prosecutions and removals the signs that a person is trafficked may be overlooked or disregarded.[166] (see Cases 1 and 2).

  13.  AIUK welcomes the intention of the UK Government to exceed the standards on identification in ECAT through its commitment to develop a nationwide system of identification and referrals based on the OSCE National Referral Mechanism (NRM) model.[167] Currently the Home Office is piloting an NRM within the anti trafficking police operation, Pentameter 2. The NRM model requires the designation of a Competent Authority which is responsible for making preliminary identifications that enable the grants of reflection periods and access to support services and definitive identifications which may enable trafficked persons to qualify for residence permits. Under the pilot the role of the Competent Authority has been split between the UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) and the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) along geographical lines. The UK Government is yet to make a final decision on which agency will take on the role of the Competent Authority in the future. AIUK believes that whilst both the law enforcement and immigration authorities have a key role to play in identification, for the reasons set out above the role of the Competent Authority should not be left solely to either agency and that front line professionals (such as medical professionals) and NGOs with a track record of working with trafficked persons such as the POPPY Project and Kalayaan should have a formal role to play in the identification of trafficked persons.

  14.  AIUK recommends that:

    —  The UK Government devises and implements a National Referral Mechanism in line with its commitment in the UK Action Plan. The UK Government should ensure key tasks in relation to identification and referrals are undertaken by trained and qualified persons within all the relevant agencies.

    —  That the operation of the Competent Authority should be based on a multi-agency model, where law enforcement and immigration officials share the function of identification with other relevant agencies, professionals and NGOs with expertise across all forms of trafficking in order to reduce the risk of missed identifications.

    —  When trafficked persons who are reasonably suspected of having been subjected to sexual violence or sexual exploitation are interviewed to establish identification they should be entitled to the same "best practice" procedures from the police as other victims of rape and sexual violence in the UK, for example female victims should only be interviewed by female officers.

    —  The Competent Authority must refer on presumed or identified victims to appropriate support services without undue delay.

  15.  Although police raids provide a useful function in disrupting the control of traffickers over persons and enabling prosecutions of traffickers such an approach is not always the most appropriate for the purpose of identifying and protecting victims. For example raids will be inappropriate for identifying victims of child and domestic labour who are more likely to have been trafficked by individuals into family homes or victims of forced labour that work alone or in care settings such as care homes. Raids may also be frightening for the victims rescued. AIUK notes the success of Government funded outreach services in identifying and supporting trafficked women. Since 2004 the Scottish Executive has funded the TARA project which provides a range of direct support and assistance to meet the needs of women who are trafficked. Since 2007 the Home Office has funded the POPPY Project to deliver outreach services, and victims have been identified and supported through the service in a number of locations including prisons and detention centres. AIUK welcomes the funding of these outreach services and recommends that the Government continue the funding of POPPY and look at how the outreach service can be expanded or in the context of domestic servitude and forced labour replicated.

ACCESS TO HEALTHCARE, SUPPORT AND ACCOMMODATION

  16.  The physical and psychological health needs and safety requirements of trafficked victims are extensive. A study conducted by researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine[168] on the physical and psychological health of women trafficked into forced prostitution or sexual exploitation in the context of forced domestic work found that they suffered numerous physical and mental health problems which required urgent, as well as longer-term care. The study found that physical health problems were prevalent and concurrent within the first 14 days after a trafficking experience. Over 63% of women experienced more than 11 physical symptoms that caused them pain or discomfort. Psychological reactions were severe and prevalent, and compared to or surpassed symptoms recorded for torture victims. It is only after almost three months that women's mental health showed signs of significant improvement, although this is improvement that is relative to past symptom status, which does not indicate that they regained a healthy psychological state compared to the average female population.

  17.  AIUK has also received enquiries relating to male and female victims of forced labour and domestic servitude where the victims have suffered physical injuries due to overwork and breaches in health and safety regulations. Medical practitioners who have spoken with AIUK are sure that they have seen patients with injuries from forced labour but are unaware how to act upon this information.

  18.  Due to their illegal status in the UK, trafficked persons who are not within the asylum process have no recourse to medical care other than that which is for an "immediately necessary and life threatening problem" for which they will be treated and then charged. Those trafficked persons within the asylum process may also experience significant difficulty in obtaining access to appropriate healthcare.[169] AIUK recommends that the UK Government provide immediate, dedicated and ongoing support services for victims of trafficking that include comprehensive physical and psychological health care for the duration of a reflection delay period in order to give victims sufficient time to recover, and to gain an improved level of physical and psychological health.

  19.  In addition the majority of adults trafficked into the UK do not have recourse to public funds.[170] This is not only the case for those with irregular status but also for many who are lawfully in the UK including A8 nationals and workers with valid work permits. Persons subject to the restriction on public funds are not entitled to benefits (which are needed to fund spaces in domestic violence refuges) or local authority emergency accommodation for homeless persons. As a result most victims who have escaped their traffickers are vulnerable to destitution, further abuse and exploitation. (see Case 3).

  20.  It is due to this physical, psychological and material vulnerability that Article 12 of ECAT requires member states to provide such measures as may be necessary "to assist victims in their physical, psychological and social recovery" and as a minimum to provide standards of living necessary for subsistence including appropriate and secure accommodation, psychological and material assistance, access to emergency medical treatment and information on rights and legal advice. In the explanatory report to ECAT the Council of Europe notes that protected shelters are especially suitable for trafficking victims as they provide 24 hour care, stability and security particularly in cases where traffickers may try and gain control. The report states that detention centres are not suitable for children.[171]

  21.  The only project in the UK that currently meets this criteria is the Home Office funded POPPY Project which is run by Eaves Housing for Women. The Home Office entered into a two year funding agreement with POPPY in 2006 for £2.4 million. The UK Government has expanded services through a combination of funding existing domestic violence refuges and relying on free support and accommodation provided by voluntary faith based organisations.[172] The UKHTC operates a working group on victim care which has a sub group for service providers. In 2007 the POPPY Project developed minimum standards for organisations providing support and accommodation to trafficked victims but it is not mandatory for organisations to comply with these standards. Currently there is no support and accommodation for victims of non commercial sexual exploitation.

  22.  Whilst AIUK acknowledges the efforts to expand support services the practitioners we interviewed are concerned that many women and girls are being detained, dispersed or placed by the authorities in inappropriate and/or unsafe accommodation, often without access to support services either because they have not been identified as trafficked or due to the lack of sufficient specialist accommodation and support services for trafficked persons in the UK. This can result in the deterioration of the health and well-being of victims, who have already had their physical and psychological health severely compromised. It also leaves them vulnerable to reprisals from traffickers. Examples of inappropriate or unsafe accommodation include:

    —  The incarceration of trafficked victims in immigration detention or prisons: For victims of trafficking, detention or imprisonment can be extremely traumatic. Detention is likely to be detrimental to the physical and mental health of trafficked victims, especially those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of being trafficked. A forthcoming report[173] by the POPPY Project on the treatment of trafficked women in detention found that the whilst all the women displayed varying degrees of mental distress including depression, suicidal ideation and insomnia only 15% received medical treatment in the inadequate form of painkillers or sleeping pills. Other problems victims may face in detention include a heightened fear of others from their country, feeling unable to communicate with those who share their language and perceived or real intimidation by traffickers or informers for traffickers who they believe are detained along with them. Victims who are transferred from captivity at the hands of a trafficker to confinement by the UK authorities will find it even more difficult to recover from their experience, to fully disclose their situation or to find the trust necessary to identify others who can help them. The motivation for co-operation on prosecutions is also lost through lack of identification and the detention environment. AIUK believes that victims who have been trafficked into the UK should never be detained, or suffer imprisonment for any reason which is a direct or indirect result of their situation as a victim of trafficking.

    —  Provision of NASS accommodation and dispersal of adult victims of trafficking who have claimed asylum: Adult victims of trafficking who are able to claim asylum and who are not transferred into immigration detention may qualify for support and accommodation from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). However, NASS accommodation is basic and does not meet any standard of safe housing for victims of trafficking. The policy of dispersing asylum applicants to different parts of the country can put victims at risk from traffickers who operate in the UK. It also isolates vulnerable women and can remove them from essential contact with their solicitor and specialist medical and/or other services. The Home Office are in the process of setting up a pilot for tailored accommodation for trafficked victims with BIA procurement. AIUK does not have sufficient information about the pilot to assess whether accommodation and support provided under the pilot will meet the safety and support needs of trafficked victims. Until the results of this pilot are known AIUK recommends that trafficked persons should be entitled to NASS funded spaces in refuges in accordance with the precedent whereby NASS are able to fund places in domestic violence refuges for asylum applicants or their dependants who are fleeing abuse (see NASS Policy Bulletin 70 for this guidance)

    —  Short-term provision through voluntary sector and charitable sector organisations: AIUK recognises that any support that enables women to leave their traffickers is important, and that the POPPY Project has developed guidance on the minimum standards that service providers should comply with if they accommodate trafficked victims. However these standards are not binding and organisations do not need to sign up to the standards in order to receive referrals from the authorities to accommodate trafficked victims. AIUK believes that all trafficked victims of sexual violence should be entitled to the same standards of security, support and care that are available to UK nationals and residents who experience domestic and/or sexual violence. Further AIUK recommends that the Home Office should continue it current policy of only funding organisations that have proven long-term experience in sheltering and assisting women who are victims of gender based violence including domestic violence, sexual violence and trafficking/enforced prostitution.

IMMIGRATION PROTECTION

  23.  Under Article 13 of ECAT the UK Government will be required to provide a minimum of 30 days for reflection and recovery where there are "reasonable grounds" to believe that the person is a victim. In its explanatory report the Council of Europe states that the purpose of the reflection period is to enable victims to physically and psychologically recover and escape from the influence of traffickers and to also enable them to make an informed decision about whether they wish to co-operate with the authorities. It is recommended that the duration of the reflection period must be compatible with this purpose.

  24.  There is persuasive evidence to show that the trafficking victims who have been subjected to sexual exploitation or sexual violence within forced prostitution or domestic labour can require up to 3 months to recover from physical and mental trauma to reach a stage where they are able to make informed decisions about their future and whether to co-operate with the authorities. AIUK recommends that the UK Government should provide trafficking victims with a 90-day reflection period in line with the recommendations of the Joint Committee of Human Rights, research on the medical needs of victims of trafficking and best practice.[174]

  25.  Under Article 14 of ECAT the UK Government will be required to issue renewable residence permits to trafficked persons where the stay is necessary either due to the their personal circumstances or for them to co-operate with a criminal investigation or prosecution. Some may never be in a position to co-operate with the authorities due to trauma and fear of reprisals. Trafficked persons should be treated primarily as victims of crime and the UK Government should have the option of granting residence permits where the physical, mental health and security needs of the victim require an extended stay in the UK beyond the reflection period. AIUK calls for the use of flexible residence permits after the 90-day reflection period that takes into account the trafficked persons' circumstances or their involvement in continuing investigations.

  26.  AIUK is concerned about Government proposals to remove immigration protection from a vulnerable group of migrant workers that will make them vulnerable to trafficking. Prior to 1998 migrant domestic workers entered the UK on visas that tied them to their employers and they were not formally recognised as workers. Many of these workers, the majority of whom are women, were being subjected to forced labour conditions. Those who escaped their abusive employers became illegal entrants without recourse to any rights, and vulnerable to further exploitation. In recognition of this in 1998 the current government introduced one year renewable visas that enable migrant domestic workers to change employers.

  27.  In spite of the protection migrant domestic workers still face abuse and exploitation. For example research from Kalayaan between April 2006 and March 2007 found that almost 70% of workers reported psychological abuse, 24% reported physical abuse, 68% were not given any time off from their jobs and 32% had had their passports withheld by their employers. The 1998 immigration rule is critical in helping domestic workers to leave these types of abusive situations as they can leave knowing that their immigration status in not irregular. Instead of retaining the current protection the Home Office is proposing that migrant domestic workers will only be allowed to enter the UK on six month renewable visas and will not be allowed to change employers even if subjected to abusive practices. Furthermore they will no longer be recognised as workers but as "domestic assistants" depriving them of rights under employment legislation. AIUK calls upon the Government to retain the 1998 rule and the protections it provides to migrant domestic workers in line with its commitment to not only protect trafficked persons but to prevent trafficking.

ASYLUM PROTECTION

  28.  The UK asylum system is currently the only legal mechanism which provides long term protection to victims of trafficking who are able to show that they face the risk of persecution/re-trafficking on return to their country of origin. The concerns we raise in this section are relevant to all asylum applicants in the UK but are outlined here in the context of their significance for trafficked persons:

  29.  Problems in accessing legal advice and representation: Trafficking cases are intrinsically complex, and the lack of specialist services for trafficked women and girls in the UK often means that the solicitor will be the only "support person" who can liaise with other services on a client's behalf. Access to quality legal advice and representation is essential to enable asylum applicants to negotiate the complex UK asylum system. However, the impact of the 2004 legal aid restrictions has resulted in many reputable lawyers reducing or stopping the provision of legally aided services. In practice this means that many asylum applicants are unable to secure good quality legal advice and representation. AIUK is concerned that the introduction in October 2007 of a fixed fee system will mean that even fewer practitioners will be prepared to take on vulnerable clients or those with complex cases.

  30.  Poor quality decisions: In 2004 the AIUK report, Get it Right: How Home Office Decision-Making Fails Refugees found that Home Office refusal decisions demonstrated the use of inaccurate country information, unreasonable assertions about individual credibility and inappropriate consideration of torture and medical evidence.[175] Since March 2007 all new asylum applications are dealt with under the New Asylum Model which intends to address the history of poor quality decision making on asylum claims by giving cases owners responsibility for management of cases from the beginning to the end of the asylum process. Practitioners have told AIUK that whilst the new model is an improvement in terms of providing better communications with the Home Office case-workers, there does not appear to be any overall improvement in decision making.[176]

  31.  Asylum decision-making at appeals: Appeals provide an independent review of flawed Home Office refusal decisions and, according to lawyers who have spoken to AIUK, usually represent the only realistic opportunity for trafficked persons to secure refugee status in the UK. Practitioners have reported examples of many cases where judges have arrived at negative decisions based on a lack of understanding about the impact of trafficking on victims, a lack of knowledge about the problems that victims of sexual violence face in disclosing that violence (see Case 4), incorrect information about the support and protection available in country of origin and a disregard for the particular vulnerability of female trafficked victims to future harm and/or re-trafficking (see Case 5).

  32.  Flawed decisions at any stage within asylum procedures can result in the removal of asylum applicants to countries where they face human rights violations, and in the case of trafficked persons, the risk of re-trafficking. For individuals, losing their case and being informed by the UK authorities, in some cases, that they are calculatedly lying about their experiences is extremely distressing. Medical and other professionals who work with victims of trafficking have told AIUK that the rehabilitation and recovery process for women and girls may be set back or even halted.

  33.  Country information: Home Office country reports are relied upon as authoritative evidence throughout the asylum process by the BIA, but also at the appeal stage. AIUK has received trafficking asylum cases of applicants from a range of countries[177] and do not agree that the Home Office "country reports" provide accurate information that can be used to make decisions on claims for trafficked persons. Whilst some reports outline the extent of trafficking and the dangers to women, the same reports overstate the intentions or the ability of governments to provide protection and support to trafficked victims. Caseworkers and judges then use this incorrect information as evidence that it is safe to return trafficked women to the country in question.

  34.  "Safe" countries: The "white list" of countries from which asylum claims are presumed to be "clearly unfounded" undermines the principle that every asylum claim should be considered on its individual merits. It is wrong to presume that any country from which a woman has been trafficked for sexual exploitation will be safe for her to return to. Moldova and Albania are on the list, both of which are major source and transit countries for traffickers and suffer corruption to the extent that individual police officers are known to have been involved in trafficking activities. This demonstrates a failure to conduct a gender-based evaluation of "safety" in terms of future risk and protection for trafficked women. AIUK believes that many trafficked women who are forced to return to these countries will face a serious risk of being re-trafficked on their arrival.

  35.  Non-Suspensive Appeals Procedures: Cases from so-called "safe-list" countries are usually certified under non-suspensive appeals procedures. Applicants whose cases are certified on refusal by the Home Office will not have access to an appeal hearing from within the UK but are expected to return to their country of origin and lodge an appeal from there. The expectation that a person who fears persecution in their country of origin should return there to appeal is, in many cases, both dangerous and impractical.

  36.  The prohibitive time limits in the fast-track and super-fast track systems: These are inappropriate for the preparation and consideration of asylum cases, especially those which are particularly complex and involve extremely vulnerable applicants. The Home Office Detained Fast-Track Suitability List makes no exemption for victims of trafficking and the Home Office Victims of Trafficking Guidance makes provision only for those adult women who fall within the restrictive criteria for the POPPY Project. Although all victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation should be classed as vulnerable, the Home Office policy not to detain vulnerable persons has failed to prevent the fast-tracking of trafficked women's asylum cases.[178]

  37.  The very restrictive time limits both within and without fast-track asylum procedures can obstruct access to legal representation and lead to gaps in the preparation of asylum cases. It is essential that victims of trafficking are given time to build up a relationship of trust with lawyers, interpreters and medical and other professionals. There is no adequate provision for allowing additional time to victims of trafficking for this purpose at any stage within the asylum process.

  38.  AIUK believes that the asylum system is an essential legal safeguard for victims of trafficking who are able to make a claim. The problems that all asylum applicants face with regard to access to procedures and decision-making must be addressed in order to ensure a full and fair hearing of each claim on its individual merits.

PROSECUTIONS OF TRAFFICKED PERSONS

  39.  Under Article 16 of the ECAT the UK Government is required to provide for the possibility of non-punishment of victims that have been involved in unlawful activities arising out of their situation as a trafficked person. Due to their uncertain immigration status many trafficked persons may have inadvertently broken the law either at the time of entry into the UK, by working illegally, through being in possession of false documentation or no documentation or through forced participation in criminal activity. Such victims will be liable to prosecution and detention either in police and/ or immigration custody. The threat of criminalisation increases the coercive power of traffickers who are known to deter victims from contacting the authorities by telling them that they will be treated as criminals and risk facing imprisonment if they go to the police to seek help.

  40.  In December 2007 the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) issued revised guidance[179] for prosecutors on how and when charges against trafficked persons may be discontinued if a prosecution is not deemed to be in the public interest. The guidance applies to adults charged with a range of passport and identity documentation offences, and offences relating to the criminal exploitation of children such as theft and cultivation of cannabis. Prosecutors are advised to decide whether on not a suspect/ defendant is considered to be a credible trafficking victim on the basis of information or evidence from the investigating immigration or police officer.

  41.  AIUK is aware of cases in which the CPS has had ample opportunity to consider discontinuing prosecution of a victim of trafficking on public interest grounds but refused to do so or were advised not to do so by immigration or police officials. The POPPY Project reports having to battle on a case by case basis to convince prosecutors to discontinue prosecutions. The POPPY Project are particularly concerned that the credibility of victims is assessed not by specialists in trafficking but by whoever the police or immigration officer is dealing with the trafficked person's immigration or criminal case. In one case the prosecution was discontinued not because the CPS accepted that the woman was a victim of trafficking but because of evidence from three different psychiatric reports that found that she was not fit to plead. In a second case from the POPPY Project the competent authority team at BIA had found that there was a reasonable likelihood that the woman who had entered the UK on a false document had been trafficked. However the UKHTC pushed for the continuation of a prosecution because she had not been a victim of trafficking in the UK.

  42.  Whilst AIUK welcomes the introduction of the guidance from the CPS there are concerns at the inconsistencies between the capacity and manner with which the authorities deal with prosecutions of trafficked persons and the victim centred approach that will be required under ECAT. AIUK recommends that where there are grounds for suspecting that a suspect or defendant has been trafficked in accordance with the definition of a trafficked person under ECAT, a preliminary identification by the Competent Authority should be sufficient grounds to discontinue a prosecution. Decisions on credibility should not be made by officials who do not have a track record of working with victims of trafficking.

CASE SUMMARIES

Failure of identification by immigration officials

  Case 1: An immigration lawyer told AIUK about a Ugandan woman who was six months pregnant and HIV- positive who was in UK fast track system and removed from the UK. She had not fully disclosed trafficking but had disclosed that she had been raped by her agent and his associates. There was no further investigation as to whether she had been trafficked, and medical advice that she was not fit to travel was ignored.

Police attitudes to trafficked victims

  Case 2: AIUK received three cases of child domestic servitude who had worked in homes and were severely abused in one particular community in London. In addition to carrying out arduous housework the children were also required to as part of their work serve food in a local church. There are indications that other members of the community were aware of their existence and situation. However these cases were approached with cynicism by the police because although the victims were willing to disclose their experiences in full, they were unwilling to act as prosecution witnesses due to fear of reprisals and their own lack of immigration protection. This reluctance was taken by the police to mean that their cases lack credibility. To AIUK's knowledge no community wide investigations into the allegations of trafficking resulted from these victims coming forward.

Access to Support and Accommodation

  Case 3: AIUK was contacted about the case of a woman who was twenty weeks pregnant. The woman had escaped forced domestic work only to end up in forced prostitution because of destitution. The woman had to be treated in hospital and once she was treated the plan was to release her back on the streets. It was only because of the covert actions of one medical staff member—who had been instructed not to get involved—that she was accommodated by a religious charity. However this charity was unable to offer appropriate accommodation for a woman in her situation.

Asylum Protection—ignorance about the behaviour and motivations of traffickers and victims

  Case 4: Extract from an Asylum & Immigration Tribunal (AIT) determination, October 2006:

    If this appellant were genuinely trafficked to the UK for prostitution, it is not credible that the trafficker would wait a week before putting her to work. She stated that he and his partner raped her regularly after her arrival in the UK. At the hearing she advised that he had never acted improperly towards her in Lagos. I do not find it credible that he would act properly towards her in Nigeria but rape her in the UK where there are laws against rape which are enforced. I find that she was not trafficked for prostitution to the UK ... If this appellant had genuinely been trafficked to the UK, held prisoner for a number of months and forced to work as a prostitute, it is not credible that she would fail to report her plight to the police in the UK immediately after her escape simply because she did not know the address where she was held captive.

Asylum Protection—ignorance about the vulnerability of victims of trafficking and disregard for medical evidence

  Case 5: In an asylum case received by AIUK the Asylum & Immigration Tribunal (AIT) reviewed specialist medical reports which described a trafficked woman as having suffered a brutal childhood and advised that returning her to Russia and removing her from her support services in the UK would have a catastrophic impact on her psychologically, making her extremely vulnerable to being re-trafficked. The AIT found that because this woman was deceived into being trafficked originally, "it was inconceivable that she could be duped in the same way again" and dismissed her appeal.

25 February 2008







165   For example of the 387 referrals received by the POPPY Project between March 2003 and March 2006 only 16 were from immigration officials. Back

166   See, Evaluation of the Victims of Trafficking Pilot Project-POPPY, Gina Taylor, September 2005. The Evaluation found that the repatriation of immigration offenders remained a primary issue for the Immigration Service when working with POPPY and that they were adamant that women who had been on the scheme needed to be returned to their country of origin, p 54. Back

167   National Referral Mechanism, Joining Efforts to Protect the Rights of Trafficked Persons: A Practical Handbook, OSCE, ODIHR, 2004. Back

168   Stolen smiles: a summary report on the physical and psychological health consequences of women and adolescents trafficked in Europe. Preliminary findings on the prevalence of physical and mental health consequences (2006) Cathy Zimmerman, Mazeda Hossain, Kate Yun, Brenda Roche, Linda Morison, Rosa Angela Ciarrocchi, Vasil Gajdadziev, Jana Genunchi, Viorel Gorceag, Natalia Guzun, Silva Hove, Anna Johansson, Anna Kefurtova, Katarina Kukic, Irina Lysenko, Olga Milinchuk, Sally Montier, Stefania Scodanibbio, Simonne Sergeant, Jo Smith, Maria Tchomarova and Anne Vauthier and Charlotte Watts. LSHTM/IOM/EU Daphne Programme. Back

169   See Making Women Visible: Strategies for a more woman-centred asylum & refugee support system, British Refugee Council, 2005, page 12 and Briefing Paper: Proposals to exclude "overseas visitors" from access to free NHS primary care services, Dr. Paul Williams, Jan 2005: www.medact.org Back

170   Amnesty International UK will be publishing a report on the impact of the no recourse to public funds rule on victims of gender based violence in the UK in March 2008 and has submitted evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee enquiry to assess the implementation of the Domestic Crime and Victims Act 2004. Back

171   Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, Explanatory Report, paragraph 155. Back

172   The Home Office has provided the POPPY Project with funds which it can allocate to domestic violence refuges to provide accommodation for trafficked women. Back

173   The report provides information on 55 women who were detained between March 2003 and October 2007 in the UK under the Immigration Act or by custodial powers between 2001 and 2007. Back

174   Italy is an example of best practice where trafficked persons are granted renewable 6-month residence permits instead of reflection periods. Back

175   Get it Right: How Home Office Decision-Making Fails Refugees, Amnesty International, Feb 2004. Available at: www.amnesty.org.uk/action/camp/refugees/getitright.shtml Back

176   See, Overview and implications of the Government's new asylum model, British Refugee Council [March 2007]: We are concerned that to date, there has been little evidence of substantial improvements in the quality of decision making, or of any profound change in the underlying "culture of disbelief" that has permeated Home Office decision making for many years. Feedback from voluntary agencies involved in NAM implementation to date indicates that Case Owners appear to be more concerned with adhering to rigid timetables, than with exercising flexibility in the interests of reaching an appropriate decision on an individual's asylum claim. Back

177   Including China, Albania, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, DRC, Russian Federation, Ukraine, Kosovo, Vietnam, Cameroon and Romania. Back

178   A report by the NAM Quality Team looking at compliance with the Gender API found that of the intake of cases at Yarlswood in February 2006 22 out of 45 cases referred were unsuitable for fast track. Yarlswood Detained Fast Track Compliance with the Gender Asylum Policy Instructions, NAM Quality Team, Home Office, August 2006. Back

179   "Prosecution of Defendants Charged with Immigration Offences Who Might be Trafficked Victims". Crown Prosecution Service, December 2007. Back


 
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