More must be done to give trafficking victims access to justice

Calls have been made for more to be done to ensure that victims of human trafficking are given improved access to justice in the UK.

Global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice has contributed to a report highlighting the “systematic lack of funding” for trafficking programmes, which is preventing many survivors from receiving specialist legal advice.

It also emphasises that a tension between anti-trafficking and immigration policies has undermined the UK’s ability and effectiveness in identifying and supporting survivors.

Phillipa Roberts, Director of Legal Policy at Hope for Justice, said: “In Hope for Justice’s experience many victims do not receive any, or receive limited, information on their rights and entitlements. Also without clear explanation they do not necessarily understand their rights and entitlements even with some provision of written information.

“We have found that, due to the fact that many victims we work with have poor literacy skills in their own language, are culturally disorientated, have vulnerabilities, and are negotiating complex systems, it is vital that they do not just receive information but have access to independent advocates and caseworkers who can explain these rights.”

Hope for Justice was one of 16 anti-trafficking organisations that contributed to the report, entitled Joint Submission to the Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA).

This piece of work has been submitted to GRETA – the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by the Parties.

The Convention aims to prevent and combat human trafficking, to protect and assist victims and witnesses of trafficking, to ensure effective investigation and prosecution and to promote international cooperation against trafficking.

The report brings together evidence on how well the UK has implemented the decisions made by the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

At Hope for Justice we are particularly concerned about:

-The challenges in accessing legal aid and legal aid ‘deserts’ around the country, particularly outside of London

-Barriers to accessing legal aid if victims pursue compensation claims

-Sanctions for Trafficking in Human Beings (THB) offences are not yet effective, proportionate or dissuasive

-Victims experience significant barriers to accessing compensation via state schemes such as the criminal injuries compensation scheme, compensation through criminal proceedings and through civil proceedings

Read the full report here.