A victim of modern slavery who was trafficked to the UK at the age of three and subject to decades of sexual abuse was told to leave the country as soon as they were identified, MPs have heard.
The former Independent Anti-Slavery commissioner told a parliamentary committee about an individual who was informed by the Home Office that they had been recognised as trafficking victim – and in the same letter told that they were an illegal immigrant.
Kevin Hyland OBE was speaking to the Home Affairs Select Committee on Tuesday about a “lack of professionalism” in the government’s approach to tackling modern slavery, warning that it sometimes ”makes it up as it goes along”.
“I’ve seen a case where a child was trafficked to the UK at the age of three and then sexually abused for years – and I’m talking about decades,” he said.
“Then later, when they were identified as a victim – and they went through a lot of mental health issues – they got a letter saying yes, we’ve confirmed your status as a victim of modern slavery under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), and in the same letter, they were told their status in the UK was not legal.
“They didn’t know where they came from. The person themselves didn’t know where they came from because they came when they were a child.”
Mr Hyland, who is now chief executive of charity ChildFund, went on to describe a separate case in which a child was trafficked to the south of England and ended up being reported to the NRM – the UK’s national framework for identifying victims of trafficking – but not to the police.
He added: “So there’s that crime where a child has been trafficked, the information is sat with the National Crime Agency (NCA) or UK visa and immigration, and all of it will go through the NCA, yet the police force where the crime actually happened, will have no record.”
Mr Hyland resigned from his position as the UK’s first-ever Independent Anti-Slavery commissioner in May, citing government interference in his role.
Quizzed by MPs about the reasons for his resignation, Mr Hyland said his independence had been “heavily compromised” due to Home Office officials “acting as though they were [his] line manager”.
The former commissioner also told how there were consistent issues with the allocation of his budget as well as lengthy delays recruiting staff to his team, citing “attempts to deliberately slow down [his] work”.
“I never once had my budget set. Not once. It was a figure that kind of appeared towards the end of the years sometimes,” he said.
“Last year I had asked for an increase because of the increase in capacity, and it was agreed, and then I got a text from the Home Office saying it was not okay.
“And then things like recruiting staff to meet that budget was taking so long – I recruited people last November, when I stood down at beginning of August those people still hadn’t arrived.
“The whole process was a mess. The independence of the role was crucial, but control was there right from the beginning and that was not how parliament intended it.”
It comes after the government’s approach to tackling modern slavery came under fresh scrutiny following The Independent‘s report which found slavery victims who had escaped their abusers were being drawn back into exploitation following cuts to their financial support.
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