Anna, not her real name, embodies the harrowing reality of sex trafficking, a crime that preys on the vulnerable and devastates lives.
Her story serves as a stark assessment of the potential consequences of the new Illegal Migration Act in the United Kingdom. Anna was trafficked from Albania to the UK, forced into a life of sexual exploitation by a criminal gang, and lived in perpetual fear, as reported by Sky News on Twitter.
“I was all the time threatened. I was getting raped all the time,” Anna reveals, her voice trembling. “I didn’t have an option to say no or to speak out because my life and my parents’ lives were threatened.” Anna’s case is currently under consideration by the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the official system for identifying modern slavery victims.
However, Anna entered the UK illegally using a fake passport, and under the provisions of the Illegal Migration Act, she and others like her could lose the protections of the NRM, facing detention and eventual removal.
Dr. Victoria Tecca from the Modern Slavery Policy and Evidence Centre warns that the Act denies protection to potentially thousands of irregular migrants who may be victims of modern slavery, ordering their detention and removal instead.
The Salvation Army, a rare organization with legal authority to help modern slavery victims, is supporting Anna. Exclusive data shared with Sky News reveals that last year alone, the charity rescued 3,533 individuals, a 5% increase from the previous year. Yet, it is estimated that for every survivor who escapes, seven others remain trapped in slavery.
The fear now is that the new law may discourage survivors from coming forward, as they face punishment instead of protection. Major Kathy Beveridge, the Salvation Army’s director of anti-trafficking, emphasizes the need for the government to understand the consequences of these policies, stating that “somebody’s life will be affected if they don’t receive the support they’re entitled to.”
Anna’s plea is clear: She may have entered the UK illegally, but her presence here is not by choice. She is being forced to stay, and deportation would undoubtedly jeopardize her life.
The Illegal Migration Act does allow individuals facing removal to claim that returning to their home country would put them at serious risk. If confirmed, they may be removed to a third country instead of their country of origin.
The Home Office acknowledges the brutality of modern slavery and the support provided to victims, promising reforms to strengthen the system and protect genuine victims. Ministers have also pledged to publish guidance clarifying the modern slavery provisions of the law.
For Anna, her future remains uncertain. Her dreams of returning to a peaceful life in Albania hang in the balance. She eloquently expresses, “The government has my life in their hands. If they decide that I will get protection, then at least I will breathe for the next six months. I don’t know what to say beyond that.”
For individuals like Anna, trapped in the dire circumstances of modern slavery, even dreaming of a better future becomes a luxury they may never afford.
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