About Supported or Deported?

After Exploitation is a data project attempting to use Freedom of Information requests to map the immigration and support outcomes of exploited people, including victims of trafficking and slavery. To launch this project our report, Supported or Deported?, uses Home Office data obtained via FOIs to understand the frequency with which trafficking and potential trafficking victims are detained or removed (voluntary and enforcedly).

You can download the report here:

Director of After Exploitation, Maya Esslemont, said:

“The unjustifiable use of detention on potential victims of trafficking shows disturbing failings by the Government to protect vulnerable people from prison or prison-like settings under Immigration Powers.

“We strongly urge the Government to acknowledge and address the frequency with which vulnerable people are detained. We also ask for urgent reconsideration of the Home Office’s involvement in the National Referral Mechanism process, as clear conflicts of interest have preceded this failure to protect victims of modern slavery from detention.”

The findings


507 cases of potential victims of trafficking held in immigration removal centres were recorded in 2018 alone. By extrapolating the most recent year-end number of current Reasonable Grounds stage PVoT (who have positive RG but are still awaiting CG decisions), this would equate to nearly 1 in 5 potential victims of trafficking being held in detention at a time when they should be supported by the NRM.


30 confirmed victims of human trafficking have been deported since 2016, whilst 25 have opted to return home. The finality of deportation makes the confirmation of this practice of serious concern, regardless of relative scale. However, the comparatively low level of deportation amongst such a widely detained group demonstrates the systematic detention of trafficking victims for whom there is no realistic chance of removal.

Data transparency

The report has found that the Home Office’s CID Database holds highly-specific information on the immigration outcomes of potential and confirmed trafficking victims. However, Parliamentary questions attempting to ascertain the detention and deportation outcomes of trafficking victims are routinely rejected on the basis that no centralised database exists. The level of detail demonstrated in the FOI responses within our report highlights a serious cause for concern when it comes to the quality of information made available to Ministers, despite its ready availability.


Potential victims of trafficking must not be detained

Without exception, people awaiting a trafficking decision via the National Referral Mechanism must be recognised as vulnerable,as must those considered vulnerable enough to reach the ‘reasonable grounds’ stage at any point.

Interaction with the NRM must trigger automatic release from detention.

Guaranteed support and immigration protection

Case-by-case support for survivors of exploitation, trafficking and slavery beyond 45 days is a positive step, but all recognised trafficking victims must be entitled to a statutory minimum of at least 12 months of protection from detention and deportation in order to avoid discrepancies in support.

Transparency on victims’ outcomes

The current reporting structure around recovery after exploitation is opaque. NRM figures do not reflect what happens to victims after they come into contact with the authorities. We ask the government to report immigration (including leave, asylum and humanitarian protection) and support outcomes (including housing, health and interaction with planned ‘drop-in’ services) for potential and recognised victims.

Protection after return

Following both voluntary and forced return, individuals are at risk of re-trafficking for the same reasons, or by the same people, responsible for their exploitation in the first place. Despite this danger, no attempts are made to track outcomes amongst survivors who leave the UK. Serious and urgent efforts must be made to monitor outcomes after removal.