Leaked Home Office documents reveal that UK police have reported victims of serious crimes to immigration authorities. Victims included those who had suffered child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse, human trafficking, and modern slavery.
The documents, obtained by The Guardian, reveal that a staggering 2546 victims had been reported to authorities between 2020 and 2022. The figures included no less than 67 instances of sexual exploitation of children and 601 human trafficking victims. Another Home Office document revealed that a quarter of domestic violence victims reported to immigration enforcement between April and December 2020 were “served with enforcement papers.”
The Metropolitan police – the largest police agency in the UK – reported 460 such cases to the authorities. Jim Pearce, the National Police Chief’s Council lead for immigration crime, said that “if an officer becomes aware that a victim of crime is suspected of being an illegal immigrant, it is right that they should raise this with immigration enforcement officers.” At the same time, he stressed that “police should never check a database only to establish a victim’s immigration status.”
The policy of reporting such victims to immigration authorities has been widely criticised by groups working with vulnerable women and children. According to Southall Black Sisters, one woman who fled from female genital mutilation practices in Nigeria, endured domestic abuse and confinement in the UK but did not tell the police because of her fear of being deported. “Negative experiences of state authorities and fear of becoming destitute or of being deported deter many from reporting their experiences and obtaining protection.”
Nicole Jacobs, the Domestic Commissioner for England and Wales, also highlighted that when victims were deterred from reporting serious crimes, offenders could easily attack again. “This puts victims in danger forcing them to either stay with abusers, opt for destitution or face being deported.”
The Home Office has said that “they are committed to supporting all victims of domestic abuse, regardless of their immigration status.”