If a young trafficked survivors’ life with their trafficker seems better than life back home, often the young people in our care cannot see it as exploitation. If they have a roof over their head and meals every day, for them this is good. This is what makes the threat of re-exploitation such a present danger.
When young people seek asylum here in the UK, the process itself can be traumatic and frightening. The Home Office interviews that they must attend focus on memories that they often have difficulty speaking about at all. For a young person who still struggles to come to terms with their exploitation, who even cannot think of it as trafficking or exploitation, the interview is that much more difficult.
How can this effect the outcome of their asylum-seeking process?
Not only do they feel unable to answer questions about their abuse, that would ordinarily help to substantiate their experiences of trafficking, the memories themselves can be so painful that the young person comes away from any conversation that even skirts the issue, in a state of complete emotional exhaustion. And it leaves the Home Office without the information they need to return a favourable positive grounds decision.
For this reason, many young trafficked survivors in our care are especially vulnerable to re-exploitation. As the decision to approve or deny asylum can drag on for weeks or months.
The powerlessness of waiting can push them out the door of our safe accommodation and back into the grip of traffickers. Similarly, during the time surrounding a decision on their status from the Home Office, they are at a much-increased risk of running away, to avoid the consequences of receiving a negative decision.
We are with them throughout this process and in the eventuality of a negative outcome we tell them;
And, the effect of certain forms of exploitations can have a particularly traumatic effect on young trafficked survivors.
The complexities of being a teenager are challenging. So when we see survivors in our care who show tell-tale signs of sexual exploitation, they can often be going through many other challenges including internal confusion. But while all trafficking is devastatingly harmful, sometimes the young people in our care are completely unable to speak about such abuse.
Their trauma can be deep and layered, from the horrific circumstances of the journey they made to the UK, to the difficulties they endured while being trafficked. They struggle to process their experiences and wonder if the fact that they have been exploited signals to something being ‘different’ about them.
Our support workers are there to talk as much as they want, to hear their worries, to remind them of the truth, and to remind them what a healthy friendship looks like when they forget. Whilst applauding them as they carry on towards health, re-integration and teenage life.
If you suspect a young person of being trafficked or in danger, ACT. Contact your local councils Children’s Services or if you believe the child to be at immediate risk of harm, call the Police on 999.