THE Home Office has been accused of sending victims of modern slavery back to addresses where they were abused, making them vulnerable to re-exploitation.
The Salvation Army is entrusted with the task of providing specialist support for all adult victims of modern slavery. But it has emerged that safe houses were not set up for victims on their release, leaving them with no option but to return to where they were exploited.
According to the Independent, a Chinese woman was told last month to return to the Barking address where she was exploited as a sex slave, after she was released from Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre. The woman, known only as H, phoned her lawyer Shalini Patel saying she didn’t know where to go.
When Patel contacted the Salvation Army, the charity said they had “no record” of the woman.
The caseworker at the Salvation Army said: “This is not the first time this situation has occurred within Home Office and IRCs [immigration removal centres]. It is completely unacceptable and we need to liaise, communicate and understand each other’s processes to find a positive solution to dealing with victims of modern day slavery and human trafficking.”
In another case, a trafficking victim went missing after she was released from detention and not provided with safe housing. It is feared that the woman has been re-trafficked.
The Salvation Army said in a statement that there have been occasions where they have faced difficulties in the coordination of safe transfer of potential victims.
“There are often multiple staff members involved in one person’s case which can mean that crucial information is not always passed to us in time. We have worked with IRCs to improve information sharing which has led to significant improvements, but this case shows how important it is to keep refining these arrangements,” the statement said.
A Home Office spokesperson said it regretted that the correct processes were not followed.
“When considering accommodation needs all requests are considered on a case-by-case basis, reflecting each individual’s circumstances,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying. “The Home Office contacted the Salvation Army to arrange accommodation [for H] once the address provided was deemed unsafe.
“However, we accept and regret that the correct processes were not initially followed. We have reminded all staff of the correct procedures and are investigating this case to see what more can be done to prevent incidents like this happening again.”