Duncan Lewis represents Claimants in successful application to the High Court for a general interim relief order to prevent the Secretary of State for the Home Department from curtailing support for confirmed victims of trafficking.
On 13 March 2019, Duncan Lewis issued claims on behalf of two victims of trafficking, NN and LP. These clients had been conclusively found by the Home Office to be victims of trafficking. LP had been trafficked to the UK from Albania and forced into prostitution. She was repeatedly raped while she was pregnant, and since escaping has given birth to a daughter. NN was trafficked from Vietnam and forced into cannabis cultivation. He was beaten by his traffickers and has been diagnosed with serious mental health conditions.
As victims of trafficking, both clients were entitled to a higher level of financial support than asylum seekers, and access to a support worker. NN was additionally living in safe house accommodation. Evidence was obtained in both cases demonstrating that the Claimants would suffer substantial detriment should their support be terminated.
Under Article 12 of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings and Article 11 of the Directive 2011/36/EU on Preventing and Combating Trafficking in Human Beings and Protecting its Victims, the UK is required to provide victims of trafficking with support and assistance.
However, Home Office policy limits support for victims of trafficking to 45 days following a conclusive grounds decision that the individual is indeed a victim of trafficking. There is the possibility of a victim’s support worker requesting an extension of support for the victim, but there is no policy on when these requests will be granted and it is entirely at the discretion of the particular case worker in the Home Office.
NN and LP therefore brought judicial review challenges to the Home Office policy of limiting support on the basis that this breached the Trafficking Convention and Directive, and that there was a failure to assess their needs before deciding to terminate support. NN also challenged the Home Office policy to not determine whether to grant leave to remain to victims of trafficking while their asylum claims remain outstanding.
The grounds were subsequently amended to also challenge the lack of policy on when extension requests should be granted. The Claimants also made an interim relief application that their support not be stopped pending the determination of these issue.
On 15 March 2019, Cooke J ordered that a hearing be listed to determine whether to grant the Claimants’ interim relief, and that their support not be stopped in the meantime.
The Claimants subsequently made an application for general interim relief so that no confirmed victims of trafficking could have their support stopped on the sole basis that they had received a conclusive decision that they were victims of trafficking.
On 21 March 2019, Mr Justice Julian Knowles ordered that NN and LP’s support not be stopped pending final determination of the issue, and that the Secretary of State shall not restrict support for any victims of trafficking under the Victims of Modern Slavery Contract by reference to the date of a Conclusive Grounds decision or the length of time the support has been provided, pending a further hearing.
This further hearing was listed for 10 April 2019. The Secretary of State did not oppose the Claimant’s application for permission, but opposed the continuation of the general order.
Mr Justice Julian Knowles found that there is a real risk of irreparable harm to a significant number of vulnerable victims of slavery and trafficking if their support were to end after 45 days. Having considered the evidence from both parties, he found that the system could cope if he ordered that their support be continued in the short term, and that the balance of convenience therefore came down in favour of granting the general relief order.
He also confirmed that, despite suggestions by the Secretary of State that only NGOs could bring applications for general interim relief, individual applicants are able to seek interim relief for persons in a similar situation to themselves, and that whether this is granted will depends on the normal principles governing interim relief (at ).
It is estimated that this order will enable up to 600 victims of trafficking to continue to receive the support which they require, pending final determination of this issue. The judge’s clarification of who can bring general interim relief applications will affect a wide range of cases going forward.
These claims have now been listed for substantive hearing on 10th and 11th June 2019.
The Claimants are represented by director Ahmed Aydeed, caseworkers Karen Staunton and Harvey Slade of the Birmingham Public Law department at Duncan Lewis, who have instructed Chris Buttler and Zoe McCallum of Matrix Chambers, and Miranda Butler of Garden Court Chambers.
The judgments can be found on Bailii:
Judgment following hearing of 21/03/19: https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2019/766.html&query=(duncan)+AND+(lewis)
Judgment following hearing of 10/04/19: https://www.bailii.org/cgi-bin/format.cgi?doc=/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2019/1003.html&query=(nn)