Majority of victims of trafficking forced into unsafe housing by support providers

Charity finds that 98% of potential female victims of trafficking are unable to access safe housing, with some even facing homelessness.

A new report by Black, Minority Ethnic and Refugee (BMER) charity Hibiscus has found that 98% of potential female victims of trafficking are forced into unsuitable and unsafe housing by support providers due to their immigration status.

The report found that a significant number of victims access housing provided through Asylum Support, which is not designed for individuals who have experienced trafficking.

Hibiscus says there are not enough safe house beds to meet the needs of the number of people going through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the government’s framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery. Social workers in local authorities, and certain other professionals in social care, have a duty to refer a potential victim of modern slavery into the National Referral Mechanism.

Find out more about the NRM your responsibilities as a first responder: www.gov.uk/guidance/report-modern-slavery-as-a-first-responder#who-are-first-responders

This is causing the vast majority of foreign national female trafficking survivors to be housed in asylum accommodation when they are meant to be placed in safe houses, meaning they are facing inequalities because of their immigration status.

A survivor of trafficking, and living in asylum accommodation, said: “We are trying to survive from the worst situation, and they are making it worse.”

Hibiscus says asylum accommodation is ‘unsuitable and unsafe’ for the 45-day reflection and recovery period those who have been identified as potential trafficking survivors are entitled to receive. This places trafficking survivors at risk of ‘re-traumatisation, re-exploitation and re-trafficking’.

Chief Executive of Hibiscus, Marchu Girma said: “Safe house provision is important for recovery and wellbeing of women who are survivors of trafficking. The government needs to address failings and gaps by increasing investment.”

The charity also warned that many people go missing after being recognised as potential victims of trafficking by the National Referral Mechanism, often at risk of being re-trafficked. The report stated: “If a victim is homeless or is living in poor or unsafe accommodation, they may be vulnerable to: targeting by both new and familiar perpetrators of abuse; exploitation; re-trafficking; and other forms of further harm.”

Hibiscus is recommending that ‘improved comprehensive training’ be provided to all professionals and volunteers working with trafficking victims during initial needs assessments and in accommodation settings.

They also recommend improvements to the Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract to include explicit policies and procedures to address failings and gaps under the current contract, including the provision of enough safe housing for victims of trafficking. The Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract was awarded to the Salvation Army by the Government in June this year to deliver improved support for modern slavery victims.

Maya Esslemont, Director of After Exploitation, a not-for-profit organisation that tracks the hidden outcomes of modern slavery in the UK, said: "This research shows just how frequently survivors of modern slavery are denied the secure accommodation they need to start their recovery. In the absence of any transparency reporting on the support outcomes of trafficking victims, thousands of survivors have slipped through the net.

“It is vital that the Government addresses the serious underfunding of safe housing, and holds itself accountable by releasing assured data on the number of victims who are not accessing their entitlements. Without transparency, survivors will continue to be failed.”

Read the full Closed Doors report: https://hibiscusinitiatives.org.uk/closed-doors-a-new-report-by-hibiscus/

To find out more about After Exploitation and their work, visit https://afterexploitation.com/

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