Ensuring positive long-term outcomes for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation is vital to prevent re-trafficking and further exploitation. Beyond the formal assistance currently offered during the 45 day ‘reflection and recovery period’, ongoing support is needed to achieve long-term recovery and guard against further vulnerability.
Barriers to positive long-term outcomes for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation:
- lack of access to avenues for compensation
- lack of coherence in provision of victim support
- lack of understanding of the specific needs of victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, including gender-specific needs
- lack of understanding of specific needs of VoTs for labour exploitation
- vulnerabilities arising from lack of access to work/benefits
Support needs for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation are varied and complex and not enough has been done to understand how these may differ from the needs of victims of other types of trafficking, for example trafficking for sexual exploitation. FLEX’s research has shown that current provision in the UK falls short when it comes to ensuring positive long-term outcomes for those identified as having been trafficked for labour exploitation, as support needs extend far beyond the official recovery period. FLEX has worked with both victims and support organisations who have cited the challenges faced when formal support is abruptly removed, as many are unable to secure housing, find employment, access benefits or legal assistance, and may fall into destitution and risk re-trafficking as a result.
Vulnerabilities arising from homelessness and uncertain immigration status put those who have already been exploited at serious risk, as desperation and fear of deportation drive victims back into the hands of traffickers. The cost of further exploitation, both to the victim and to under-resourced support providers, is high. There is thus an urgent need for greater attention to be given to long-term outcomes for victims and for resources to be allocated to follow-up assistance once victims have exited formal support structures. Ongoing psychological support, legal advice and representation, housing, access to benefits, education, employment assistance or help with return to country of origin, are all crucial elements of sustainable recovery, enabling victims to access justice, regain independence and move on.
FLEX has advocated for the UK government to take further action to fulfil its obligations under EU law to provide access to justice for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, including access to avenues for compensation, clear and comprehensive legal advice, and accessible immigration remedies (see WP02: Access to Justice), and we have set out a clear and specific roadmap to improve access to compensation for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation in the UK.
FLEX research into support for and identification of those trafficked for labour exploitation has contributed to the development of a new approach for the proactive identification and sustainable support of trafficked persons across the European Union. FLEX has worked with partners in the Netherlands and Romania to develop new strategies to improve support for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation, which include recommendations to develop robust models of ongoing support and assistance with move-on options. The project concluded that unconditional, needs-based, and ongoing support for victims of trafficking for labour exploitation is needed in order to ensure the sustainability of anti-trafficking responses and prevent re-trafficking.