Anti-trafficking charity finds compensation scheme not fit for purpose and claims that should be granted are being refused
ATLEU report highlights barriers faced by survivors of trafficking and slavery applying for compensation
19 November 2020
ATLEU (Anti Trafficking & Labour Exploitation Unit) on Tuesday published a report on the barriers faced by survivors of trafficking and slavery trying to obtain compensation from the government's Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme (CICS).
The 24-page report is available here.
The findings of the report are based on 30 cases conducted by ATLEU between April 2013 and November 2018 and a survey of solicitors and support workers working with survivors of trafficking and slavery who had experience of making CICS claims.
The report notes: "Human trafficking and slavery are heinous crimes which involve a fundamental violation of human dignity and freedom. They are crimes which attack an individual's autonomy and integrity and, as such, are inherently crimes of violence and crimes of the most serious order. The importance of compensation for this group of victims is heightened given the role it plays in preventing re-trafficking and in recognising that in addition to the abuse an individual has suffered they have also been robbed of their labour, sometimes for many years."
ATLEU is concerned by the length of time it takes to go through the CICA process, and by CICA's lack of understanding of the nature of the crimes of trafficking and modern slavery, leading to claims being refused.
ATLEU's survey found that 47% of respondents had experience of trafficking survivors waiting two to three years for CICA to determine their applications and award compensation, with 5% of respondents reporting delays of four years or more. No respondent to the survey had experience of an application being determined within three months.
In addition, 88% of respondents had experience of survivors giving up due to the length of time taken to deal with their application.
The report noted: "Sadly, the length of time needed to obtain funding and an initial decision from CICA has seen survivors die before the conclusion of their application."
60% of respondents had experience of survivors being refused compensation on the basis that they had not suffered a crime of violence, and 60% had experienced applications being refused on the basis that the survivor had not reported to the police as soon as reasonably practicable.
Another concern highlighted by the report is the unavailability of legal aid when submitting an application to CICA. While the Exceptional Case Funding (ECF) regime is in place to provide legal aid to those who would otherwise suffer a breach of a Convention or EU right, ATLEU found that that 93% of applications made for ECF were refused.
The report states: "The barriers to a survivor being granted compensation by CICA are further exacerbated by the lack of access to free legal advice, meaning that survivors are left to deal with complex legal issues unaided."
ATLEU concludes: "At present, the CICA scheme is not fit for purpose. It is not genuinely accessible and the vast majority of survivors are refused compensation in circumstances where it ought to be granted."
Jamila Duncan-Bosu, a solicitor at ATLEU, said: "Applications to CICA are generally made by survivors who are unable to identify their trafficker, where the trafficker has no significant assets, or where the survivor is unable to face their trafficker in court. Compensation is vital to helping survivors escape the poverty that places them at much greater risk of further harm and re-trafficking. The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme as it currently operates is failing survivors by regularly denying them the compensation that they are entitled to."
In a separate blog post on Monday looking at a general lack of legal advice available for survivors of trafficking and slavery, ATLEU's director, Victoria Marks, stated:
"No matter how good our law is, without access to specialist advice, trafficking survivors' legal rights and entitlements remain an illusion.
"Legal advice is an essential part of the support needed by survivors of trafficking and slavery to escape, recover and rebuild their lives. Survivors need advice and assistance to navigate and engage with the complex systems through which they are identified, access accommodation and support, regularise their immigration status and recover compensation.
"Without it many survivors won't enter the National Referral Mechanism (NRM); won't share the information needed to support their identification as a victim of trafficking; won't be able to regularise their immigration status; won't recover compensation for their exploitation; and won't be able to challenge unlawful housing and support decisions."