Victory! Home Office data refusal is overturned

·         Home Office rejected Freedom of Information (FOI) request by NGO, After Exploitation, asking for immigration outcomes facing trafficking survivors

·         Director of After Exploitation, Maya Esslemont, was represented by lawyers at the Campaign For Freedom of Information at a virtual hearing on 14 December 2020. The Home Office provided two expert witnesses for proceedings.

·         The Home Office refused to provide the data, originally quoting “300 hours” of staff time. The Tribunal today estimates the request would have cost under 24 hours (12 x less than the Home Office claim)  

·         [TODAY’S JUDGEMENT CAN BE READ HERE]

Director of After Exploitation, Maya Esslemont, said:

“After nearly two years of fighting for information on the immigration outcomes facing trafficking survivors, we finally have recognition that this data could be disclosed by Government. Despite Ministers informing Parliament to the contrary, it is now clear that the Home Office has the means to hold itself to account on its track record of victim support – it simply chooses not to.”

“It is vital that the Home Office ends its blanket refusal of vital human trafficking data. We are not dealing in abstract statistics, we are assigning numbers to peoples’ lives and real instances of Government failing.”

“We hope that others will feel empowered to challenge data refusals where they arise, as this is a vital component of the fight against modern slavery. Since the Modern Slavery Act, MPs have been denied data on trafficking victims 25 times. Equally, numerous charities and journalists approach After Exploitation for guidance due to repeated FOI refusals which later transpire to be unfounded. Without Government transparency, we cannot understand the key challenges facing survivors.

“We cannot thank Campaign For Freedom Information enough for their tireless work on this case.”

In 2019, Maya Esslemont of After Exploitation requested information on the numbers of trafficking victims granted humanitarian protection, discretionary leave, or limited leave to remain. The Home Office originally estimated that it would take “300 hours” of staff time to provide the data. However, today the Tribunal has ruled that it would take under 24 hours.

This victory is significant as the Home Office may no longer be able to rely on blanket FOI rejections, on the basis of cost, where information is retrieved from their immigration records. The Home Office previously claimed that extracting information from the ‘Case Information Database’ is an onorous process, and that data was stored in different locations. This case sets a precedent for journalists, lawyers and researchers previously denied trafficking data from the Case Information Database (CID) due to the cost exemption within the FOI Act 2000.

However, the data requested in May 2019 is now out-of-date, as it was requested 18 months ago. After Exploitation argues that it is vital that the Home Office releases regular figures, assured to the level of national statistics, on the safe housing, immigration and detention outcomes facing trafficking victims. 

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