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Top News Trafficking survivor granted refugee status after four years

Trafficking survivor granted refugee status after four years

A young survivor of modern slavery who was trafficked to the UK as a teenager has finally received his refugee status. It follows a cruel four-and-a-half year wait. Jin* was ‘left in limbo’, unable to work or move forward with his life, and not able to safely return to his birth country.  

Jin was trafficked to the UK when he was just 15 years old. He was lured from his home in East Asia. Traffickers forced him to travel illegally through several countries and via various modes of transport. He was then exploited for criminal purposes. 

It was the police who identified Jin as a potential victim of modern slavery. They referred him to children’s services and he entered the National Referral Mechanism – the UK Government’s formal process for identifying and supporting victims of modern slavery. 

He was then referred to the Child Trafficking Guardianship service where he received one-to-one support and advocacy. It was at this point that Jin first made an asylum claim. 

Lunar House, Croydon, is one of the Home Office’s immigration reporting centres. Google Maps image

Jin first encountered Hope for Justice when he turned 18. The anti-slavery charity had created a new role in 2022 – that of Child Trafficking Transition Specialist – to meet the particular needs of young adults at a time when statutory support can otherwise fall away.

‘His life was put on hold’

Our team advocated for Jin to be moved into a safe house but this was initially denied, so Hope for Justice supported a public law challenge. This succeeded, and secured for Jin a safe and stable place to live in a safe house. 

It wasn’t until Jin turned 21 that he received his asylum decision – almost five years after his initial claim. 

One of our Independent Modern Slavery Advocates (IMSAs), who has worked closely with the survivor, said: “The unnecessary long wait for a decision occurred over the formative years of this young adult’s life – a time when he should have been exploring career options and increasing in independence. Instead, the survivor was left in a state of limbo. Not only was he exploited at the hands of criminals, but he was then made to wait years for a decision on whether he could remain in the country.  

“The survivor is very intelligent and was determined to move forward with his life, but he was prevented from doing so because he did not have the right to work or access to independent housing. He was left in an insecure, unstable situation. His life was put on hold.”

Long waits for asylum decisions

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request made by the Refugee Council found that the number of people waiting for more than one year for an initial decision on their asylum claim increased almost tenfold from 3,566 people in 2010 to 33,016 in 2020. 

And, according to Home Office data, the total number of people awaiting an asylum decision more than doubled between 2020 and 2022, from 70,000 to 166,300. 

In June 2023, The Guardian reported on the “devastating effects” that Home Office delays were having on children seeking asylum.  

Jin told us: “I felt very bored and disappointed while I waited for a decision. I had had many plans that I could not do. I think others would feel similar, but everyone would have a different way of thinking or feeling. When I was granted status, I felt happy. I was able to live, work, and my plans could then go ahead.” 

During Jin’s wait for an answer to his claim, Hope for Justice wrote supporting letters for his solicitor, attended immigration appointments with the survivor, provided specialist information relating to his trafficking and requested regular updates from the solicitor to keep the survivor informed. 

Our team also helped Jin to access an English course to develop his language skills. Additionally, Hope for Justice commissioned some counselling for the survivor. Jin also took up a voluntary position with an employer to enhance his skills. 

Stability and safety

When he finally received his refugee status, Jin immediately started in a new job and was able to secure himself independent accommodation. 

Our IMSA said: “This was truly wonderful news for the survivor and a huge step in enabling him to progress. But it is so incredibly unfair and unjust that a decision on his asylum claim was so prolonged. We want to see this situation improved for survivors of modern slavery. Having exited exploitation, they need stability and safety, but they are being condemned to years of uncertainty and further challenge.”  

Now that the survivor has been granted refugee status, he has permission to stay in the UK for at least five years. After this time, he will be able to apply to settle in the UK (indefinite leave to remain). 

*Name changed to protect identity of the survivor

young girl