Credit: Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT) UK
The UK authorities want to send Stephen*, a child victim of trafficking, back to Vietnam where he has no family. He was picked off the streets of Hanoi, an orphan aged just 10 years old.1
Stephen was arrested when he was found in a police raid looking after cannabis plants, aged 16, after years spent isolated and locked up in converted houses, mixing and applying dangerous chemicals, beaten and assaulted when his traffickers visited.
Despite being formally recognised as a trafficking victim by UK authorities, when he turned 17-and-a-half he lost his automatic right to stay in the country and had his application to remain refused. The decision letter has been vilified for suggesting Stephen had shown “considerable personal fortitude in relocating to the UK and attempting to establish a life here”.
Stephen spoke no English, except a few words, when he was rescued. It is only in the intervening years that he attended school, learnt to speak English fluently and has now started college.
We ask the UK Home Secretary to review her decision.
This case highlights the UK government’s failings in providing child victims with the support that they need.
Sadly, cases like Stephen’s are not uncommon. Whilst the UK does have a system for identifying and supporting victims, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), it does not currently guarantee any specialist support or long-term leave to remain in the UK, which makes it very difficult for child victims to build a stable life and plan for their future.
Just as they’ve begun to recover from traumatic experiences of abuse, many are forced to return to countries where they have no family, few support structures and are likely to be further exploited.
Tell the Home Secretary that Stephen and victims like him should stay in the UK and be given the opportunity to fully recover.
Our partner ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking) carried out a survey of frontline professionals, which found that 91% said it was important that the NRM provided a grant of leave that gave a durable solution for child victims of modern slavery with immigration concerns.2 That’s why we launched a campaign for child victims together in July last year.
Children identified as victims of trafficking are among the most vulnerable in our society and most in need of long-term protection. Removing young people like Stephen is unjust. We hope that his case will help secure much-needed reforms of the NRM for children so that Stephen and the thousands of others like him are allowed to rebuild their lives and plan for a better future.