‘Staggering’: UK govt slammed for ‘knowingly’ detaining over 500 suspected slavery victims

Official data showing that more than 500 suspected slaves have been detained in immigration centers by UK authorities is evidence of survivors being treated as “offenders rather than victims,” a leading charity has claimed.

Data mapping project, After Exploitation, used a Freedom of Information request to obtain figures from the UK Home Office. It found 507 cases of potential victims of trafficking being held in immigration removal centers during 2018.

After Exploitation say immigration officials have committed “disturbing failings” to protect vulnerable people from “prison or prison-like settings.” They’ve called on the government to urgently address the frequency with which victims of trafficking are detained.

Pierre Makhlouf, assistant director of charity, Bail for Immigration Detainees, labeled the figures “staggering,” claiming that it was evidence the government “knowingly detains victims of slavery on a large scale.”

“All too often victims of trafficking are perceived as immigration offenders rather than victims,” Makhlouf added.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office has insisted that no one is detained who claims to have been trafficked, but that “detention is an important part of the immigration system” that needs to be “fair, dignified and protect the most vulnerable.”