Government response to trafficking victims held in detention “deeply concerning”

After Exploitation is deeply concerned by the government’s response to our report, Supported or Deported?, which found that 507 individuals were recognised by the Home Office as potential victims of human trafficking when entering detention or whilst within detention.

Yesterday, Minister of State for Immigration, Caroline Nokes MP told Parliament:

“Home Office correspondence in that report [Support or Deported?] disclosed that 507 individuals who were believed to have reasonable grounds in their trafficking cases were detained under immigration powers in 2018, either before or after receiving an NRM decision. Although that number is correct, the statement is not, because those 507 individuals were not detained after getting a positive decision on reasonable grounds to remain.

As clearly stated in the freedom of information response provided by the Home Office, that figure [507 potential victims] is for people who had a positive decision on reasonable grounds to remain when entering detention, or while in detention.

Further analysis of the figures shows that of those 507 people, 479 received a positive decision on reasonable grounds during a detention period. Of those, 328 were released within two days of that decision, and in total, 422 people were released within a week.”[1]

We are deeply concerned, rather than reassured, by the emergence of these unpublished figures. We believe that detaining any number of people already known to the Home Office as potential victims of trafficking should be cause for investigation and not commendation. Further investigation is needed to understand the failures which led to 28 potential victims being detained, despite a legal status intended to protect them.

Additionally, we are troubled by the Government’s new evidence that 479 individuals who were deemed appropriate for detention were later recognised as potential victims of trafficking. We believe that the detention of 479 potential victims, missed by the vulnerability screening process, highlights serious shortcomings in the Gatekeeping stage of detention meant to identify victims of trafficking. Until now, this practice has gone largely unchallenged due to a lack of data transparency.

Finally, it is on this point of transparency which is of primary concern to our data mapping efforts. Last month, the Minister of State for Immigration 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.”[2] However, we were able to obtain this data through FOI requests.

We hope the proven existence of detailed immigration, detention and deportation outcomes of trafficking victims, held on the Home Office’s CID database, can empower journalists, NGOs and researchers to secure a greater understanding of victim support by submitting FOIs.



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