This letter was originally published in the Independent.
We are deeply concerned by the government’s response to a new report outlining the detention of 507 potential victims of human trafficking in 2018 alone.
Last week the minister of state for immigration, Caroline Nokes MP,clarified that “479 [potential victims of trafficking] received a positive decision on reasonable grounds during a detention period” and that “422 people were released within a week.”
We believe that the detention of 479 potential victims of trafficking highlights severe flaws in the detention gatekeeping process, which is meant to identify vulnerable people. The failure of UK authorities to protect hundreds of potential victims who have indicators of exploitation, and 29 more whose legal status recognises them as potential victims, should be cause for investigation and not commendation.
There is a conflict of interest between the Home Office's remits on immigration enforcement and its responsibility to identify and refer vulnerable people including victims of modern-day slavery. Until now, the exact scale of this problem has gone largely unchallenged due to a lack of data transparency.
Finally, it is on the point of data transparency that we petition government. Last month, Nokes told Frank Field MP that “there is no central record of those who have received a positive conclusive grounds decision and are detained under immigration powers.”
However, After Exploitation was able to obtain this data through FOI requests.
We ask the government not to wait until public scrutiny to make data on the support, deportation and detention outcomes of trafficking and potential trafficking victims available.
We must be assured that these findings will provoke a commitment to transparent reporting on slavery and trafficking outcomes, that any interaction with the national referral mechanism (NRM) will trigger automatic release from detention, and that the Home Office’s involvement in both detention gatekeeping and the NRM will be reconsidered.
African Rainbow Family
Anti Slavery International
AVID (Association of Visitors to Immigration Detainees)
Bail for Immigration Detainees
Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group
Jesuit Refugee Service
Joint Council on the Welfare of Immigrants
Manchester Immigration Detention Support Team
Migrants' Rights Network
Scottish Detainee Visitors Group
UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group
Women for Refugee Women