June 21, 2023
On 14 June 2023, Wilsons’ written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Human Trafficking (submitted on 15 March 2023), was published and can be accessed here. Katie Schwarzmann and Danny Bayraktarova, solicitors in the Public Law & Human Rights department, prepared the submissions on behalf of Wilsons.
As a specialist legal aid firm representing both adult and children victims of trafficking in their public law & human rights, family and immigration cases, we responded to the following of the inquiry’s questions:
Our submissions highlighted how the unavailability of safe routes to claiming asylum in the UK forces many vulnerable people fleeing persecution into trafficking situations. It is not legally possible to claim asylum from outside of the UK. Therefore, an individual fleeing persecution from any other country must find a way to arrive in the UK to claim asylum. The few routes that do exist, such as the Family Reunification Scheme, the Syrian Resettlement Scheme, the Afghan Relocation Scheme, and the Ukrainian Settlement Scheme are inadequate and highly restrictive. The Afghan Relocation Scheme in particular has attracted considerable criticism in failing to provide protection to many vulnerable people who are being left behind in extreme danger. The lack of availability of safe routes pushes them into seeking invisible travel routes to the UK.
We also highlighted that, in our experience, state bodies prioritise law enforcement as opposed to providing support, resulting in many victims being charged and prosecuted for crimes they committed while enslaved or in a trafficking situation. Many of our clients report that support provided to them, either under the Victims Care Contract or asylum support provisions under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, is inadequate.
In relation to the inquiry’s question on evidence of individuals seeking to exploit the NRM, we emphasised that the Office for National Statistics found no evidence supporting the Home Secretary’s claims that individuals are abusing the modern slavery system. We also explained that, until we advise our clients that they may be potential victims of trafficking, almost none of them have any prior awareness of the NRM process, the support that is available to them and how it may affect their asylum claims or that it may act as a barrier to removal. The notion that asylum seekers are exploiting the NRM process is not reflective of the reality of many asylum seekers’ limited knowledge of the English legal system.
We made the following specific recommendations:
If you have a family case where you require some advice or representation, please contact Mavis for an appointment with a family solicitor on 020 8885 7986.