A Moldovan woman who was sent back home where she was at risk from her traffickers wins ‘groundbreaking’ settlement, the Guardian reports this week.
A woman who was a repeated victim of sex trafficking and suffered severe sexual degradation is to be paid substantial damages by the Home Office after it returned her to Moldova, where she faced grave dangers.
The “groundbreaking” settlement was reached on the eve of a high court hearing of her claim against the Home Office for failing to take steps to protect her and for sending her back to Moldova despite substantial grounds to believe she was at risk from her traffickers.
The woman, who cannot be named because she and her family are still at risk of retribution by her traffickers, was kidnapped at the age of 14 and then continually trafficked and re-trafficked for forced prostitution in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Israel and Britain until she was 21.
Her solicitor, Harriet Wistrich of Birnberg Peirce and Partners, said she was repeatedly beaten, raped and threatened with death, and was treated as a slave.
She was arrested by police and immigration officers in a brothel in London in 2003, but instead of rescuing her they charged her with possessing false documents, which had been provided by her traffickers.
She was imprisoned for three months before being sent back to Moldova through a fast-track immigration process. Her trafficker was neither investigated nor arrested but was allowed to visit her in Holloway prison and Oakington detention centre, where he posed as her boyfriend, in order to intimidate her.
Wistrich said the woman was found by her trafficker when she got back to Moldova and was savagely ill-treated before being trafficked back into prostitution for a further two years.
In 2007 she was arrested again in Britain and held at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre, but was eventually referred to the Poppy project, which identified her as a victim of sex trafficking and provided her with the necessary support to make an asylum claim.
She has since been granted refugee status in recognition that the Moldovan authorities could not offer her adequate protection against her traffickers.
Wistrich said the undisclosed “substantial damages” followed the “groundbreaking” attempt to sue the Home Office for its failure to protect her. She said she hoped immigration authorities would learn from the experience so that other trafficked women would be treated as victims instead of criminals and rescued rather than handed back to their traffickers to be raped and ill-treated.
Mrs Justice Cox, who approved the confidential settlement, said the woman had been the repeated victim of sex trafficking over a long period of time, during which she had suffered severe sexual degradation resulting in psychiatric injury.
She remained at significant risk of serious harm because the police had not been able to catch her traffickers.
A spokeswoman for the Poppy project said it hoped the case would highlight the continuing need to identify and protect victims, “especially as we are seeing an increasing number of trafficking victims detained and given removal directions”.
The immigration minister, Damian Green, said it was a very disturbing case and showed why the approach to human trafficking had changed significantly since 2003. The UK had introduced a mechanism to identify and refer victims of trafficking and established mandatory training for all frontline immigration staff, he said. Source: The Guardian.
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