Patel and Braverman face accusations of denying trafficking victims’ rights
The Home Office unlawfully neglected to grant permission to stay, despite a ruling indicating that 1,600 individuals were eligible for it
Former home secretary Suella Braverman leaves her home in London on November 15, 2023. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
FORMER home secretaries Priti Patel and Suella Braverman are facing accusations of operating a secret policy to deny 1,600 victims of trafficking their right to remain in the UK, The Guardian reported.
Despite a landmark high court ruling in November 2021, which mandated that confirmed trafficking victims awaiting asylum decisions should be granted discretionary leave.
However, during a hearing on Wednesday (29) the Home Office is accused of unlawfully withholding such decisions, leaving victims in a state of limbo without access to work, education, or mainstream benefits.
Represented by the charity Asylum Aid, a 22-year-old trafficking victim, known as XY, escaped traffickers in Albania who had coerced him into drug trafficking at the age of 16, threatening harm to his family if he resisted. The secret policy allegedly led to an 18-month denial of leave to remain for XY.
The counsel for the home secretary argued in court that the delay was merely awaiting the outcomes of appeals to the court of appeal and supreme court against the 2021 ruling and not a result of a hidden or unpublished policy.
Cathryn McGahey, KC for the home secretary, stated, “This case is about delay. It is not a case about secret or unpublished policies.”
Internal documents obtained by the newspaper revealed that the Home Office officials recommended putting decisions on granting leave to remain “on hold.”
An email from July 8, 2022, explicitly mentioned, “All discretionary leave decisions affected by (the November 2021 ruling) currently remain on hold.”
Furthermore, internal emails indicated officials’ concern about the potential reputational impact of this delay, especially regarding key figures like Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May, who have been advocates for laws protecting trafficking victims.
The revelation of a substantial number of judicial reviews and pre-action protocol letters linked to the Home Office’s failure to implement leave to remain for trafficking victims further emphasises the severity of the situation, the report added.
Chris Buttler KC, counsel for XY, argued in court that operating an unpublished policy inconsistent with public policy is unlawful.