Last week, the Home Office was forced to pay a damage fine of £25,000 after it tried to deport a victim of modern slavery earlier this year.
The victim of the breach was a Polish trafficking survivor, who had been forced by traffickers to shop-lift from UK shops. The Home Office itself had identified that the man – who still wishes to remain unnamed – was acting under the compulsion of his exploiters, but still punished the actions as a crime. He was detained for months in a UK detention centre and constantly threatened with deportation.
He had come to Britain from Poland in 2016, accompanied by two other men who promised he could get work and a house once here. Once he had arrived, he began what he thought was a legitimate job in a car dealership and was pleased. But soon things changed. The men he had come with took his documents after a few weeks of work, as well as his bank card so that he was completely under their thumb. Around a year later, they started forcing him to steal, telling him he owed them for helping him come to the UK. They then evicted him from his house, and he was forced to sleep rough, relying on charities and supermarket bins to survive.
The Home Office itself had identified that the man […] was acting under the compulsion of his exploiters, but still punished the actions as a crime.
By 2018, he had been detained by immigration officials, after being caught shoplifting. He was referred to the UK’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) which helps to identify victims of trafficking, and in June they found that there were reasonable grounds to assume that he was a victim of modern slavery.
Despite this, the Home Office continued to persecute him. He was kept in detention for several months and (even after his solicitors intervened and had him moved to a safe house) threatened with deportation. This May, the NRM concluded that he was, without doubt, a victim of forced exploitation (a category of modern slavery).
The men he had come with took his documents after a few weeks of work, as well as his bank card… Around a year later, they started forcing him to steal….
Now, an independent judge has ruled that this detention was not lawful, stating that the Home Office acted “disingenuously” by ignoring its own assessment in order to prioritise its own hostile agenda.
He has been granted £25,000 for his suffering – although campaigners and lawyers have come forward to say that this doesn’t excuse the Home Office long-time prioritisation of hostile policies – in which they ruthlessly trying to meet deportation and detention targets instead of considering cases in a lawful, subjective, or ethical way.
“Despite the government’s claim to be a world leader in the fight against modern slavery, victims of trafficking are detained in the hundreds,” Pierre Makhlouf, the assistant directior of charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, said in response.
“The Home Office will always see vulnerable adults and victims of trauma primarily through the lens of immigration enforcement. We ask how a Home Office that is institutionally obsessed with forcibly removing people from the country can possibly discharge its duty to protect victims of trafficking.”