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Case Studies Sanaa’s story: ‘Cruel and heartless exploitation’

Sanaa’s story: ‘Cruel and heartless exploitation’

Sanaa* was trafficked to the UK on the promise of a college course which would enable her to enter her dream career in nursing. She was sent tickets to travel to the UK but when she arrived, she faced unimaginable cruelty at the hands of people she thought she could trust. 

Traffickers took Sanaa to a property in the North of England where she was forced to have sex with men. These ‘clients’ paid money directly to her perpetrators. 

This sexual exploitation continued for several months. 

Sanaa was referred to Hope for Justice in 2020, by an organisation that unites and empowers survivors of modern slavery.  

At the time, Sanaa’s living situation in the UK was unstable. 

She made an asylum claim based on having “a well-founded fear of persecution” in her home country, in the Caribbean. But this claim was rejected by the Home Office. They made their decision on the grounds that the survivor “had no real risk of suffering serious harm in her home country”, and said “removal from the UK did not breach her right to respect for private and family life.” 

Hope for Justice advocates for survivor

Sanaa was assigned an Independent Modern Slavery Advocate (IMSA) at Hope for Justice. Our team referred Sanaa to an immigration solicitor who could appeal the asylum decision. 

An IMSA accompanied Sanaa to the appointments relating to her asylum claim. We also provided support around mental health problems that she developed in relation to her immigration status. 

Her immigration solicitor challenged the negative decision in early 2021. One year and 10 months later, the survivor received a decision that her appeal had been allowed.  

Sanaa won her appeal before the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) on the grounds of human rights. She has been granted Discretionary Leave to Remain and permission to stay in the UK until 2025. 

Sanaa’s situation has finally stabilised. 

Our IMSA said: “This survivor is incredibly independent and is doing her utmost to make the best of her situation, despite facing setbacks such as being refused asylum here in the UK. This is something she should have had immediate access to given the cruel and heartless exploitation that she faced.” 

Finding a place to live

Sanaa has moved into a new flat, after our IMSA referred her to a charity who provide advice and support to asylum seekers. We provided evidence to show that Sanaa was homeless; on being granted Discretionary Leave to Remain, she had to move out of asylum accommodation, and was living in a hotel. We also advocated on her behalf with the local authority, providing evidence around her exploitation and mental health.

Hope for the future

Sanaa has completed several short college courses. She is working part-time at a charity shop, and due to her trafficking, now hopes to one day become a support worker for survivors of modern slavery. 

Being in employment has helped in Sanaa’s recovery journey. “Getting a job and being able to work has helped build my confidence,” she said. “I have been very happy with Hope for Justice’s support. Without it, things could have turned out differently for me. I didn’t know who to turn to for help (with my immigration case when I got a negative decision). My IMSA attended all the appointments with the new solicitors and was there to support me. I know that Hope for Justice helps a lot of people. Keep doing what you’re doing.” 

Her message to other survivors was this: “Don’t give up, keep looking until you find the right support. When you find help, make sure they are legitimate, they have the relevant knowledge and expertise. Have faith, even if you get a negative decision from the Home Office.” 

*Name changed to protect identity of survivor 

young girl