Written by: Hasbeeb Khan
The mention of slavery tends to evoke the horrors of the past in most people. However according to UN estimates there are 27 to 30 million modern-day slaves. On Thursday 22nd October, to mark anti slavery day (18th October 2015), ATLEU organised a series of presentations at Garden Court North Chambers on the subject of human trafficking. The event offered a vital insight, from a range of perspectives, into the challenges, trauma and stresses facing victims of trafficking but also what can be done to improve their situation.
Rachel Rose- Ashiana Sheffield (Ashiana supports women who have been trafficked to the UK and have often been victims of domestic slavery and sexual abuse).
Rachel spoke about the issue of informed consent of victims of trafficking (VOTs) within the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) (a framework for identifying VOTs or victims of modern slavery). The processes of the NRM, despite its purpose being to ensure VOTs receive the support they need, has in some circumstances increased trauma for victims. Whilst a referral in the NRM must be based on the ‘informed consent’ of the victim, this can be an issue for women involved. The implications of the NRM are often not made clear to women and some do not even understand the process that they enter into. Rachel also spoke about the importance of understanding the mindset of trafficked women. They tend to be unfamiliar with the UK and understandably have a mistrust of people in authority including police, healthcare, government and even social care officials. Some are also unaware of why they are victims and show loyalty to their traffickers, perhaps fearing for the safety of their families back home. What is necessary to avoid further harm is to consider the realities of womens’ experiences, start from a stand point of belief, be open to listening, work and acknowledge the impacts of abuse and not patronise the women, rather placing them at the centre. Rachel provided a vital glimpse into world of trafficked women and those who work to help them at a grass-roots level.
Lucy Meyer- Garden Court North Barrister
There are various issues effecting VOTs, as touched upon above, but what if one has not been legally recognised as a VOT?
This was the topic of Lucy’s discussion, touching upon the different available legal remedies. The list of remedies included asking for the refusal to be reconsidered and the use of judicial review, a fresh claim for asylum based on human rights and use of judicial review if there were police failures. Another legal option would be to bring a civil claim for damages or and employment tribunal claim for damages and allow the relevant court to reach their own conclusion. The reconsideration and judicial review remedies are also strengthened by S. 22 and S. 22(1) of the Victims of Modern Slavery: Competent Authority Guidance which provides the authority and ground for judicial review and reconsideration. The list of legal remedies raises a degree of cause for optimism.
Lola Ghani Yusuf- Africans Unite against Child Abuse (AFRUCA) (Children’s charity that works with trafficked African children)
Debbie Afriyo, the founder of AFRUCA, says that ‘trafficking is the movement of people for the purpose of exploitation and abuse’. Lola first screened a short film entitled ‘Through the eyes of survivors: A video on human trafficking’. The film spoke of the process of trafficking itself which can be split into four stages; 1. Recruitment 2. Deception 3. Explotation 4. Escape. The video can be viewed here.
Debbie then elaborated on the film. What was particularly striking was a sentiment raised by both Debbie and Rachel. That is the importance of empowering VOTs. The removal of agency is a major feature of the trafficking process and empowerment projects through music, drama, film and employment can be vital in the recovery process.
Shazia Khan- Kenworthy’s Chambers and Amie Higgins- Bankfield Heath Solicitors
Shazia and Amy provided a practical view into a case involving two Albanian women who were VOTs. They raised issues with the Home Office approach to VOTs, Whilst cases such as these can be frustrating Shazia and Amy indicated the importance of gathering legal evidence, testimonies from involved individuals and making use of the hands on experience of groups such as Ashiana and AFRUCA.
Phillipa Roberts- Hope for Justice (trains front line professionals to identify VOTs, and provides support and advocacy)
Finally Phillipa Roberts, the legal director from Hope for Justice, discussed what happens to VOT after the NRM process, specifically difficulties they may face gaining access to welfare. These difficulties have been enhanced since a January 2014 change of law making tests to access welfare, relating to residence and prospect of work, much more stringent. Proving past work and evidence of their length of residency can be difficult for VOTs given they have often been involved in the informal and sometimes illegal sector (e.g. sex and other explotatative work). These legal changes are not compatible with the EU trafficking directive 2011/36 article 11, nor are they compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore there may be an option here for VOTs in EU law. As well as legal solutions Hope for Justice utilises local businesses and enterprises to gradually integrate VOTs into work. Political lobbying of government is also an important avenue. Phillipa provided an excellent oversight of the varied approaches used by Hope for Justice to advance the cause of VOTs.
Human trafficking and modern-day slavery is doubtless an unpleasant subject. The evening at Garden Court North highlighted the plight of VOTs but it also offered hope and provided avenues of support for victims. A multi disciplinary approach using the law, alongside social grassroots movements, politics, business and employment, and also culture in the form of music, sport and art as means of empowerment seems to offer a way forward to deal with the blights of slavery and trafficking.
For more information on all the organisations involved see here: