Dame Sara Thornton, the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner, has called for the issue of ‘leave to remain’ for confirmed victims to be made a priority this year.
She warned that the serious risks facing survivors of modern slavery who are not granted leave to remain after being confirmed as victims could result in them becoming shut away in safe houses or destitute.
“There is a powerful moral argument for granting leave for those whom the state has concluded are victims of trafficking or slavery but there is also a practical one,” Dame Sara said. “Without such leave survivors, who are not claiming asylum or who have not been granted EU settled status, are not entitled to accommodation and have limited access to benefits – they will either be unable to leave safe houses or left destitute on the streets. Surely 2021 is the year to resolve this?”
Expressing her concern at the anguish and trauma caused to survivors of modern slavery who, even after they have had a positive trafficking decision from the Home Office, still have to for decisions about whether they will be able to remain in the UK, Dame Sara said she has been working with officials to try to understand why decisions take so long. However, she noted that this approach is slow and while this is being done survivors are continuing to suffer.
“The latest guidance says that discretionary leave is automatically considered for all non-EEA survivors,” she said. “But the overall number of survivors granted discretionary leave remains very low.
“In 2015, 123 survivors with positive conclusive grounds were granted discretionary leave, in 2019 it was 70 and in the first three months of this year it was only eight.”
Dame Sara also noted that from 1st January some EEA nationals will face a new uncertainty about their future immigration status.
Picture: An illustrative image of a person with their hands tied in rope. (chameleonseye).