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New FLEX working paper reveals trafficking victims denied access to justice in the UK

June 11, 2014

Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) has today launched a Working Paper outlining the significant barriers to access to justice facing victims of human trafficking in the UK.  Such barriers include restrictions on compensation; lack of secure immigration status; and limited access to legal assistance.

The paper notes the rare opportunity presented by the Modern Slavery Bill introduced today to ensure victims have access to their legal rights, and calls on the UK Government to make victims’ access to justice a priority.

FLEX Legal Director, Claire Falconer, commented:

“Compensation can make a huge difference to a victim’s recovery and future prospects.  It also directly targets the large profits that make trafficking a lucrative business.  Yet victims of trafficking continue to face enormous hurdles in securing compensation through either the civil or criminal courts”

In relation to the Modern Slavery Bill, Ms Falconer commented:

“Unfortunately the Bill as introduced does little to protect the legal rights of victims, providing only for reparation orders in the few cases in which traffickers are successfully prosecuted and their assets identified and confiscated.”

The paper also highlights the effects of recent legal aid changes on the ability of victims to access timely legal advice.

“Victims of trafficking have complex legal needs and are highly vulnerable, particularly prior to their referral into the National Referral Mechanism.  It is essential that victims have access to early and comprehensive legal advice to prevent their misidentification and re-victimisation”.

FLEX’s full list of recommendations are as follows:

  • Make victims’ access to justice a priority in UK law and policy
  • Provide clear avenues to compensation
  • Ensure potential victims have immediate and effective access to legal assistance
  • Provide clear and accessible immigration remedies
  • Provide a right to appeal or otherwise challenge negative National Referral Mechanism decisions