30 July 2019
Charities find lack of Home Office support is placing trafficking victims at risk of further exploitation
- New report finds that recognised survivors of trafficking are facing homelessness, psychological trauma and re-trafficking due to lack of support
- The British Red Cross, Ashiana and Hestia have joined forces to call on Government departments to work better together to implement policies that guarantee improved care for survivors of trafficking
- The charities are demanding that victims are given at least 12 months of specialist support to prevent them falling back into the hands of traffickers
Charities say they are concerned that victims of trafficking are being forced into homelessness, destitution and further exploitation due to the lack of support available to them.
New research from the British Red Cross, London-based Hestia and Sheffield-based Ashiana reveals that the Home Office policy of giving recognised survivors of trafficking only 45 days of accommodation and financial support leaves them facing poverty and struggling to cope with complex mental health needs.
According to the research, those without UK or EU nationality are placed at the most risk as they have no automatic right to remain in the UK after the Home Office has accepted them as being survivors of trafficking. As a result, they are ineligible for many forms of support such as healthcare, secure accommodation and mental health treatment.
Freedom of Information data obtained by the British Red Cross found that 752 people recognised as survivors of trafficking between 2015 and 2017 had no right to remain in the UK and therefore were unable to access permanent accommodation, mental health support and financial assistance.
The British Red Cross, which is one of the few organisations providing emergency support to people when they leave exploitation, has worked alongside specialist support organisations Hestia and Ashiana over the past 12 months to pilot a model of long-term support to survivors of trafficking across the UK.
The pilot found that the lack of suitable permanent accommodation available to non-UK/EU nationals is exacerbating the mental ill-health of survivors and putting them at an unreasonable risk of re-trafficking.
Half of those supported by the project were female survivors of sexual exploitation, yet most had previously been placed in mixed-sex accommodation where male guests had unregulated access to the property – putting them at risk of further exploitation.
Repeated re-housing also resulted in survivors – 66% of which had mental health needs - having substantial difficulties accessing treatment and repeatedly having to go to the bottom of waiting lists. What’s more, over half of those supported by the pilot had children yet their needs were rarely considered in decisions made about their parent, with repeated moves having a negative impact on the children’s wellbeing and education.
The three charities are now using the findings to call on the government agencies to create care pathways that place the survivors of trafficking at their heart. The includes the Home Office to provide tailored support for at least one year to anyone recognised as a survivor of trafficking under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK Government’s process for determining whether someone is a survivor of modern slavery - as well as leave to remain in the UK for at least 30 months to give people the time to recover and receive the help they need.
The call comes a month after the Home Office, facing a judicial review of their current policy, were forced to accept that longer-term support is needed for victims of trafficking. But details of what this system will look like are still to be announced.
Naomi Phillips, director of policy and advocacy at British Red Cross said:
“The British Red Cross sees many people who are left struggling to access help just weeks after they have been recognised as a survivor of trafficking by the UK Government.
“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.
“By implementing the recommendations we make in this report, the Home Office can ensure that being recognised as a survivor of trafficking means that people are protected and given the safety they need to recover and rebuild their lives.”
Abigail Ampofo, Operations Director at Hestia said:
“Modern slavery is rife in our communities. From the 1,000s of survivors Hestia has supported, we know that ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t work. Victims of modern slavery need tailored and longer-term support across health, housing and their links to community to recover from their trauma and rebuild their lives.
We welcome the Government’s recent announcement to extend support. We hope this new research will help guide Government’s further planning of how to make the
Modern Slavery Act deliver on its great promise to lastingly improve support for the victims of modern slavery in this country.”
Rachel Mullan-Feroze, service manager at Ashiana said:
“This report evidences 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.
Ashiana urge the government to reconsider their stance on granting leave to remain for confirmed victims of trafficking.”
What was the pilot project between the British Red Cross, Ashiana and Hestia?
Ashiana, Hestia and the British Red Cross partnered to deliver 12-months of support to survivors of trafficking. Between us we helped 70 people between February 2018 and May 2019, ensuring that they had access to specialist mental health support, links to employment, English language classes and safe accommodation.
How was the research carried out?
The research focused on exploring the impact of long-term support on survivors of trafficking; what helped and hindered survivors of trafficking as they recovered from their experiences; and whether longer-term support reduces the specific vulnerability of women survivors to gender-related violence, abuse, exploitation and disempowerment.
The report was led by the British Red Cross involved reviews of the cases of the 70 people supported through the programme; qualitative interviews with staff members and survivors of trafficking; and the analysis of data from a tool that assessed the wellbeing of survivors.
- The British Red Cross is the UK’s largest provider of support to refugees and asylum seekers and has destitution services in around 50 towns and cities across the country. These provide services ranging from food parcels, clothing and small amounts of emergency cash to help finding housing, individual casework and nappies and maternity packs for new mothers. The charity also provides emergency support to people when they leave exploitation as well as the longer-term support they need to recover.
- Ashiana believes that everyone has the right to live in a safe environment, free from fear and harm. They have over 30 years’ experience in providing high quality, accessible services, tailored to meet the needs of women who have experienced or is at risk of experiencing violence and abuse. Based in Sheffield, they provide support for BAMER women and their children across the country, providing outreach support to male and female survivors of Human Trafficking across Yorkshire and Humberside, North East, East Midlands and the North-West England regions.
- Hestia support adults and children across London in times of crisis. Last year they worked with more than 9,000 people, including victims of modern slavery, women and children who had experienced domestic abuse, young care leavers and older people. From giving someone a home to helping them to get the right mental health support, they support and enable people at the moment of crisis. Since 2011 Hestia has supported over 3,300 victims of modern slavery and their dependents. Currently, Hestia provides 6 safe houses in London and Kent, as well as a pan-London outreach service working in every London borough. They work closely with The Salvation Army to deliver support to victims who have been referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) and who have chosen to be supported by the Home Office funded Victim Care Contract. In 2018, Hestia also launched the Phoenix Project in partnership with the British Red Cross to provide volunteer-led, long-term support to victims of modern slavery.
- For further information, case studies or interviews please contact Freya Carr
What is the NRM?
The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) is the UK government’s system for determining whether or not they believe a person is a survivor of trafficking. The decision often takes several months, or even years, and while people can access support and accommodation while they wait, this support ends just weeks after the decision is made. Being recognised as a survivor doesn’t come with an entitlement to further specialist support, which would help people to recover and rebuild their lives.
What was the pilot project between the British Red Cross, Ashiana and Hestia?
Ashiana, Hestia and the British Red Cross partnered to deliver ongoing support to people after they left the NRM. The pilot, known as STEP, was a provision for survivors over a 12-month period and focused on third country nationals. The three organisations
helped 70 people between February 2018 and May 2019. The pilot was evaluated to see whether the support had helped survivors recover after leaving the NRM. The evaluation aimed to make recommendations on what the key components of longer-term support should be, and to highlight the barriers that were hindering support, including difficulties accessing statutory systems.
How was the research carried out?
The STEP project was evaluated throughout the pilot, with a full evaluation carried out after the pilot ended in May 2019. The research focused on exploring the impact for survivors of longer-term support after the NRM; the kind of support people need after leaving the NRM; what helped and hindered survivors of trafficking as they recovered from their experiences; and whether longer-term support reduces the specific vulnerability of women survivors to gender-related violence, abuse, exploitation and disempowerment. The evaluation was led by the British Red Cross and involved reviews of the cases of the 70 people supported through the programme; qualitative interviews with staff members and survivors of trafficking; and the analysis of data from a tool that assessed the wellbeing of survivors.
What are key recommendations?
- People who have been found to be survivors of trafficking should continue to receive tailored, person-centred support that helps them to rebuild their lives after they have left the NRM, irrespective of their immigration status
- Survivors should be protected and given security, through the grant of immigration status of at least 30 months.
- People who have been found to be survivors of trafficking should be able to access secure, appropriate long-term accommodation.
- People leaving the NRM with a negative conclusive grounds decision should have a care pathway in place to help the access advice