High Court Orders Home Office to Reverse Financial Cuts to Victims of Trafficking and Slavery
Lawyers welcome judgment which will help to protect victims of trafficking
Lawyers acting on behalf of a 19-year-old asylum seeker, “AM”, who fled persecution and severe exploitation at the hands of traffickers have today welcomed a High Court judgment that will reverse cuts to the financial support he receives as a victim of human trafficking and modern slavery.
On 26 October 2017, the Government announced that it would “radically improve the support for victims of human trafficking and modern slavery”. In fact, it cut the financial support for over 1000 potential victims of trafficking by 42%, from £65 per week, to £37.75 per week. Lawyers acting for AM challenged the legality of that cut.
Mr Justice Mostyn considered evidence that the 42% reduction in payments had damaged AM’s mental health and exposed him to a risk of falling back into the hands of traffickers.
The Judge ruled that the Home Office had acted unlawfully and required it to make back-payments that are likely to exceed £1million. He held that –
“The claimants and anyone else subjected to the cut are entitled to be repaid at the rate of £27.25 per week from the date that the cut was imposed on them until the date of repayment.”
Silvia Nicolaou Garcia, Associate Solicitor at Simpson Millar acting for AM, said:
“We welcome this judgment. Such a significant reduction to the subsistence payment forced our client into an increasingly untenable and, frankly, inhumane situation.”
‘He couldn’t afford the travel necessary to meet with his solicitors, which he is required to do on a regular basis; he had accrued debt; and he could no longer afford to buy clothes, food, or mobile credit to allow him to keep in touch with his professional support network or his friends”.
“We hope that the reversal of the cuts, and a back payment to cover losses will help to provide stability, and importantly, safety for him”.
In his judgment, the Judge also addressed the Home Office’s wider duties to victims of trafficking and modern slavery under the Modern Slavery Act 2015. Under the relevant provisions of the Act, which were brought into force in 2015, the Home Office should have issued guidance to public authorities and other appropriate bodies about the indicators of human trafficking and modern slavery, the assistance and support that should be provided to victims, and arrangements for determining whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that a person may be a victim. The Judge noted that no such guidance has yet been introduced and held that the Home Secretary has an “absolute duty immediately to issue the guidance that Parliament has required of him” and that “any further delay would be completely unacceptable’.
The Judicial Review hearing took place at the Royal Courts of Justice on 30-31 October 2018. Judgment was handed down on 8 November 2018. AM was represented by Ayesha Christie and Chris Buttler of Matrix Chambers, instructed by Silvia Nicolaou Garcia and Elizabeth Smith from the Public Law Team at Simpson Millar.
Another claimant in the proceedings known as K whose financial support was also reduced was represented by Wilson Solicitors.
Read the full judgement
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