The Refugee Council today welcomes a ruling by the Court of Appeal that the Home Office failed in its legal duty to protect a Vietnamese boy from falling back into the hands of traffickers. The judgment criticised the government’s handling of the case and declared that the Home Office breached the boy’s human rights by failing to put in place measures to protect victims or potential victims of ‘slavery or servitude’.
The boy, known as TDT to protect his identity, was held in detention as Immigration officers initially thought he was adult. The Refugee Council’s trafficking project and his solicitor were helping him to challenge this and had secured the agreement of West Sussex social services to provide safe accommodation for TDT and asked the Home Office to release him into their care. Instead he was released to an address they had not checked and did not contact the local authority, the Refugee Council or his solicitor despite their pleas that he only be released into the safe accommodation.
TDT has not been seen since the day of release.
In an unusual case, the Refugee Council and his solicitor worked together in TDT’s absence to challenge this failure to protect him, in an attempt to ensure that the government recognises its failures and takes steps to ensure other vulnerable children are not treated with the same disregard for their safety. The Court was highly critical of the Home Office’s actions and lack of attention to the need to protect TDT, even when it had been acknowledged by them that TDT was potentially a victim of trafficking.
Responding to the judgment, Helen Johnson, Head of Children’s Services at the Refugee Council said
“The current procedure for recognising child trafficking victims is bureaucratic and cumbersome. Provisions to ensure those who are suspected of being child victims of trafficking are properly protected whilst further information about them is gathered are often not adhered to. By the time the authorities decide to act the child has often been placed in unsafe and inappropriate situations such as adult detention centres or prisons or gone missing from care and been found and re-trafficked by their exploiters. Whenever there’s a suspicion that a child has been trafficked effective safeguards need to be put in place immediately to protect them. Children’s safety, not red tape, must always come first.”
TDT was legally represented by Silvia Nicolaou Garcia, from Simpson Millar LLP who said: “We welcome the Court of Appeal’s judgment in favour of the Appellant. Protective measures should be in place for the appellant and others like him, so they do not fall prey to the hands of their traffickers. We hope this judgment will lead to greater protection for victims of trafficking”.