Today we were delighted to be informed that our client, BC, has been released from detention following a successful referral to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for Human Trafficking. BC’s very serious case had been entirely ignored by three previous legal representatives and the Home Office prior to our intervention.
The team at the Habeas Corpus Project visited Yarl’s Wood IRC on Wednesday 29th June 2016 to interview five female detainees, including BC. We were very distressed when BC told us of how she arrived to Europe. Her account gave us reason to believe that she was a potential victim of human trafficking (PVoT). Despite residing in the UK since 2002, being represented by three different solicitors and submitting numerous applications for leave to remain to the Home Office she was never identified as a PVoT by any of her legal representatives. The HCP’s first priority was to flag our concern with the appropriate authority. The government policy on PVoTs is centralised through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and the power to make referrals resides with “first responders” such as the police, government sponsored service providers and the Home Office. Solicitors cannot refer directly to the NRM, so the HCP compiled key case notes and contacted several first responders directly.
The Salvation Army, one of the approved first responders, quickly picked up on BC’s case. They contacted her to give an interview over the phone and made the referral on Friday 8th July. By Monday we received the first piece of good news: the NRM had accepted her referral. The successful NRM referral triggers a “recovery and reflection” period of 45 days provided for under the terms of the Council of Europe Convention.
Victims of trafficking are only considered suitable for detention in very exceptional circumstances. In Chapter 9.9 of the enforcement instructions and guidance (EIG) it is provided that during this 45 day period “individuals will not be detained (unless their detention can be justified on grounds of public order) and removal action will be suspended.” Furthermore, BC cannot be removed in these 45 days and she has no criminal convictions. By the end of Tuesday, BC was still held in Yarl’s Wood so we began to draft a temporary admission requesting the Home Office release her while her case is concluded.
However, this morning BC was released from Yarl’s Wood! We could not be happier with this news as her continued detention was having a serious impact on her mental health.
This case demonstrates how detention and a lack of access to justice deprive immigration detainees from safeguarding mechanisms designed to protect them. BC’s very serious case had gone unnoticed or ignored and the HCP are very relieved she can now access the legal protection she is entitled to.
Our gratitude to the Salvation Army for their speedy and diligent response to our referral.