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Trafficking victim left ‘unemployed, dehumanised and penalised’ says judge

A VICTIM of trafficking has been left “unemployed, dehumanised and penalised” as a result of the Home Office’s “astonishing” delay in deciding if she has leave to remain, a High Court judge has said.

The woman, known only as EOG, took legal action against the Home Office last year over its policy of excluding potential victims of trafficking from having discretionary leave to remain in Britain, while certified victims are granted such a right.

She came to Britain on a youth visa in 2017, but “fell under the domination of a man who abused her sexually and forced her into prostitution” in 2018, before she eventually managed to escape.

EOG was referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a body within the Home Office which decides whether there are “reasonable grounds” to believe someone is the victim of trafficking, in September 2018.

The NRM then makes a final decision on whether they are a victim of trafficking, with Home Office guidance stating it “should generally be made as soon as possible after 45 calendar days.”

However, EOG had to wait “595 days after her initial referral to the NRM” for a final decision to be made last April, Mr Justice Mostyn said in a judgment on Thursday.

EOG was “forced to give up her employment” with a trafficking support organisation in September 2019, shortly before her visa was due to expire, and was “cast into the ‘hostile environment’ mandated by the Immigration Act 2014 for overstayers and other illegal migrants,” the judge said.

He added: “As a result of the defendant’s delay, the claimant finds herself in a most unhappy situation where she, as an overstayer, is branded a criminal … deprived of access to basic services, unemployed, dehumanised and penalised.”

In his judgment, Mr Justice Mostyn said that the policy is unlawful as it fails to “protect from removal persons in receipt of a positive reasonable-grounds decision.”

EOG’s solicitor, Zofia Duszynska, from Duncan Lewis, said: “This is a great result for victims of trafficking who come forward and assist in the prosecution of their abusers, but who have to wait considerable time for their own status to be resolved.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Our policy is clear – any potential victim of modern slavery is provided with support and assistance and is protected from removal for as long as it takes to confirm whether they are a victim.”

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