An orphan child trafficked to the UK by a criminal gang in Vietnam is facing deportation now he is a teenager putting him at “greater risk of exploitation and re-trafficking,” Chloe Setter, head of policy at ECPAT UK told Sputnik.
Stephen, which isn’t his real name, was plucked from the streets of Vietnam by a criminal gang when he was ten years old and trafficked to Britain. Once in the UK, Stephen was made to work on cannabis farms as a so-called gardener, or more accurately, a slave labourer.
For years Stephen endured beatings by his traffickers and endured dangerous conditions until he was rescued by police and placed into a foster family when he was 16.
However Stephen lost his right to remain in the UK when he turned 17 and had to apply for asylum, which has been refused by Britain’s Home Office.
As a victim of modern slavery, he now faces being deported, putting Stephen at greater risk of being re-trafficked and “back into situations of vulnerability”, according to Chloe Setter, head of policy at ECPAT, a charity dedicated to protecting children from trafficking.
“Children with immigration concerns, like Stephen, commonly face being removed from the UK when they turn 18 back into situations of vulnerability, which is not acceptable and only puts them back at risk of exploitation,” Chloe Setter told Sputnik.
Stephen was identified as a victim of modern slavery by the British government’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM). However the current levels of specialist support offered to victims of modern slavery is “dire”, Chloe Setter told Sputnik.
“There is currently a dire lack of specialist accommodation, independent advocacy and mental health services to provide the right level of support”, Setter said. “Children who have been trafficked require specialist support for many years in order to recover from the abuse they have suffered.”
Meanwhile almost 30 leading children’s charities and organizations which specialize in working with trafficked victims are calling upon Britain’s Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to reconsider the decision to refuse asylum to a child victim of modern slavery.
According to the charities, Stephen’s case highlights the urgent need to reform the system of support, which is currently managed by the NRM.
Charity ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking), along with a coalition of organizations have penned an open letter to the Home Secretary asking for Stephen’s case to be reconsidered because he was unknowingly trafficked into Britain as a child.
“Sadly, cases like Stephen’s are not uncommon. It is estimated that thousands of children each year are in modern slavery,” the letter states.
“As Stephen’s case sadly demonstrates, being recognized by the NRM as a victim of trafficking does not currently guarantee children any specialist support or long-term leave to remain in the UK,” Chloe Setter, head of advocacy, policy and campaigns at ECPAT UK said.
More than 100,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Britain’s Home Secretary to reconsider Stephen’s case — and protect all child victims of trafficking.
More than 3,800 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in the UK in 2016, according to NRM statistics.