A ruling put into action at the beginning of July leaves victims of trafficking at risk of re-exploitation and destitution
According to Home Office Policy, potential victims of trafficking who are having their cases reviewed and being accommodated by the Local Authority are entitled to receive £65 per week. This money is granted to help them with living costs, including supplementary food, hygiene products, and other daily expenses like stamps or photocopying.
Despite this, many victims of trafficking the IAS work with have reported receiving far less than this; with most receiving a weekly sum of only £35.
On or around 1 July 2020 the Home Office introduced a policy to discontinue subsistence payments of £35 per week for victims of trafficking (VOT) in initial accommodation.
Victims in this accommodation are given food, but the initial accommodation does not cover their essential living needs, such as toiletries and feminine hygiene products, supplementary food items, credit for their mobile phones, stamps, and photocopying. In fact, most hotels charge victims to use the WIFI in their hotel.
Heather Malunga, an IAS immigration lawyer who represents several victims of trafficking, says:
“The subsistence payment is payable in accordance with the state’s obligations under Article 12 ECAT, Article 11 EU Directive, Article 3 and 4 ECHR and pursuant to Guidance and the Contract.”
“The Home Office is in breach of this, leaving vulnerable victims at risk of further exploitation.”
Malunga goes on to discuss what she and her colleagues are doing to tackle this issue, telling me that she challenged this new ruling in one of her cases and the judge ordered interim relief, which reinstated support payments of £65 per week.
But, alarmingly, this is now happening on a wide scale.
“The decision to discontinue support for victims of trafficking has left victims unable to cater to their essential living needs,” she tells me. “This places them at high risk of being re-exploited financially, sexually, and emotionally.”
Reported by Luna Williams, with the assistance and guidance of Heather Malunga, an immigration lawyer and representative of victims of trafficking.
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