Over 500 ‘slaves’ locked up by Britain last year

Reuters LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — British lawmakers urged the government to stop detaining victims of trafficking under immigration powers on Tuesday, as official data showed more than 500 suspected slaves were held last year.

Politicians and anti-slavery activists said immigration officials were failing to adequately support those escaping slavery and risked adding to their trauma by locking them up.

“The Home Office needs to stop detaining survivors of trafficking and gender-based violence immediately,” opposition lawmaker Jess Phillips said in a parliamentary debate.

The Home Office, Britain’s interior ministry, said no one who claimed they had been trafficked would be required to leave the country while their case was being considered, and that a victim’s status was considered when deciding immigration cases.

“Detention is an important part of the immigration system — but it must be fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable,” a spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We have made significant improvements to our approach in recent years, but remain committed to going further.”

People who are recognized as likely victims of modern slavery are entitled to a package of support including housing, counseling and some living costs while their case is assessed under Britain’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) scheme.

However, victims of trafficking do not have any automatic entitlement to remain in Britain and they can be detained in some circumstances in order to carry out their removal. A total of 507 people were formally recognized as probable slavery victims by NRM officials either before they were first detained or while being held in 2018, showed a report by data project After Exploitation.Speech

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