A Guardian investigation has found that victims of modern slavery are being further traumatised caused by Home Office delays to confirm their status.
While the Government has stated that decisions on the legal status of such victims should be made within a 45-day recovery period under its programme, the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) the time guideline is not being met, the newspaper claims. However, The Guardian has learnt of people waiting more than six months for the visa and immigration authorities to process their cases. In one incident six West African men who were rescued by British trawlers in 2017 were still waiting to find out their fate in 2018. Interestingly, shortly following the Guardian had begun to make inquiries on the reason for the delay all six men were granted leave to remain.
This sort of delay is unacceptable and a period of limbo of this length while living, often in emergency accommodation, will inevitably increase anxiety for those who are in an already traumatic situation. We know delays in processes are common, a fact highlighted last year by report from the National Audit Office which was highly critical of the time it was taking to process victims.
Theresa May has stated that eradicating modern slavery and trafficking was a priority as both home secretary and prime minister. However, despite introducing legislation, the Modern Slavery Act 2015, the modern slavery strategy which supports it cannot be fulfilling one of its key obligations as highlighted in its 2104 report.
The report clearly states one of its key components as “Protect: strengthening safeguards against modern slavery by protecting vulnerable people from exploitation and increasing awareness and resilience against this crime.” Protecting victims is a priority and yet delays in processing their status is doing the complete opposite to its promise of protecting victims.
Slavery and trafficking victims need protection and support and not lengthy, complicated and drawn out processes which leave them in limbo for an unsatisfactory length of time. It is not acceptable and Theresa May who has extensive experience of the Home Office should address the issue immediately.