Appeal judges endorsed last October’s High Court ruling granting thousands of confirmed trafficking victims leave to remain in the UK. As previously reported on the Justice Gap, the claimant in the proceedings, referred to as ‘KTT’, is a Vietnamese national who was forced to work as a prostitute in Vinh City before being brought to the UK by traffickers. KTT’s journey to the UK took her to various countries where she was forced to work as a prostitute.
KTT’s lawyers argued that the government’s modern slavery policy is at odds with its obligations under the European Convention on Action against Trafficking (ECAT). Article 14.1 of ECAT was specifically considered – KTT’s legal team argued that the Secretary of State should issue her a residence permit because her stay is necessary ‘owing to her personal situation’.
KTT has a pending asylum claim in relation to her being a victim of trafficking-her asylum claim is based on the risk of her being re-trafficked if she were returned to Vietnam. As such, KTT’s legal team argued that it is necessary for KTT to stay in the UK to pursue that asylum claim.
KTT has significant mental health issues due to her experiences being trafficked, and so her insecure immigration status has been contributing to her mental health issues.
Lord Justice Underhill, in his judgment, noted the Secretary of State’s lengthy delays faced by asylum seekers and potential victims of trafficking, as he said ‘If the conclusive grounds decision in EOG’s case [the other claimant on the case] or the decision on KTT’s asylum claim had been reached in a reasonable time it is unlikely that either claim would have been brought’. Underhill LJ stated it is ‘notorious that there are very long delays in the asylum system.’
Ahmed Aydeed, Director of Public Law at Duncan Lewis Solicitors told the Guardian: ‘We welcome the court of appeal’s landmark ruling. For too long victims of trafficking have been left in this legal limbo, this half-world where they have to remain in the UK but cannot plan any real part in society. This ruling will have a huge real-world effect as thousands of victims of trafficking in similar circumstances will be granted leave to remain.’