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Recent Court Case Involving Trafficked Asylum Seeker with New-Born Baby Highlights the Heartlessness of The UK Home Office

In recent years, we have talked at length about how and why the Home Office has taken an increasingly hard line against migrants; the so-called ‘hostile environment’. It is easy to lose perspective on just how inflexible the Government can be. The recent news that the Government is unwilling to bend to pressure from footballer Marcus Rashford is a case in point. While it may not be an immigration matter, it is an example of a situation involving children where the Government appears unwilling to show a kinder face. And unfortunately, a new decision handed down by the High Court in relation to a case involving a vulnerable baby really brings home how heartless the Government can be. In this article, we will discuss a decision handed down by the High Court in a recent case involving a woman who was trafficked into prostitution across Europe, and her baby, against the British Home Office.

Seven Years Of Hell As A Victim Of Human Trafficking

The plight of QH in QH v Secretary for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 2691 (Admin) is a harrowing one. As the judgement explains, QH is a “recognised victim of trafficking, pursuant to a positive 'conclusive grounds determination' in April 2020”. Providing some context as the background of the claimant, Mr Justice Fordham stated, “The claimant in her narrative description of her history describes having been raped, in her country of origin, when aged 15 by her mother's boyfriend while her mother held her down.

Aged just 16 she was abducted and trafficked, raped by her abductor and forced into prostitution in a different country, that is to say Italy. She was subsequently kidnapped raped and forced into prostitution in Belgium, and trafficked back to Italy to continue as a prostitute, in which circumstances she experienced a forced abortion. She was then trafficked to France and later to Spain and finally to the United Kingdom, now aged 22, and forced into prostitution here. The documents go on to record at least one suicide attempt. I granted anonymity yesterday in this case, for reasons which by now will be obvious”.

In September 2020, still in the UK, QH gave birth to a baby girl.

The Battle For Suitable Accommodation

While QH was still in hospital after having undergone a Caesarean procedure, there was no clarity as to where she and her newborn baby would live once discharged. QH was discharged only three days after giving birth and taken to a hotel. The following day QH and her baby were taken to interim emergency accommodation, but the available room was given to another woman. QH was then taken back to the hotel, and the following day returned to the emergency accommodation where a room was provided.

The accommodation provided was clearly unsuitable, and as a result judicial proceedings were brought against the Home Office, which stated, “there is no storage in the room; that belongings have to be kept on the frame of a bed above which is the boiler; that the claimant and her baby are sleeping on a mattress on the floor because of the proximity between the boiler and the bunk bed; that there are insects that can be seen near the boiler and that the newborn baby already has an insect bite on her lip; she says the problems with the room have not been addressed notwithstanding every opportunity by the accommodation providers; she emphasises that the heating is set only to come on for one hour; that the claimant in her evidence says she is not able to wash her child."

The Home Office reasoned that the accommodation provided was “sufficiently appropriate”, making the points that “many of the issues that have been described could readily be addressed by taking steps within the property itself: clutter could be removed and that matter resolved to create space; the room could be reconfigured were it necessary to do so that the claimant and her baby did not need to sleep on the floor”. To this, Mr Fordham made the point that if it was so easy to reconfigure the room to be suitable, why had this not been done before QH and her baby arrived?

Damning Expert Opinion

Two expert court reports provided compelling evidence in the case. One by a psychotherapist explained that the room provided would have been adverse for an able-bodied single woman; “it is vital that the claimant's accommodation be changed immediately; the current situation would be adverse to a young and able-bodied single person let alone for a woman with a background of complex trauma who has just undergone major surgery and is adjusting to motherhood for the first time”. A letter from a social worker included a request that “the claimant and her newborn be moved to suitable self-contained accommodation in Greater London where they can feel safe, as a matter of urgency, given the circumstances detailed”. It was clear from both experts involved in the case that the room was wholly unsuitable and represented a danger to both mother and baby.

The Home Office’s “Chilling” Argument

Core to the case brought by the Home Office was that there should be no order made to place QH and her baby in suitable single occupancy accommodation in London because there are finite resources and “numerous people in a far worse position”. This was, in the words of Mr Justice Fordham, a “chilling submission”.

In concluding the case, Justice Fordham stated, “It is clear in my judgment that it would not be in the interests of justice, and therefore satisfy 'the balance of justice', for the resolution today to be that the claimant is told she is going back to a hotel while some other steps are taken to identify some other alternative. She is vulnerable and in urgent need this case cries out, in my judgment, for concrete action that provides her with proper stability and reassurance”.

Final Words

We don’t know what happened to QH and her baby, but we can only hope they are now in suitable and safe long-term accommodation. What we do know is there are many other migrants and victims of trafficking in the UK who are vulnerable and in desperate need of the basics essential of life. While it is true that there is only a finite amount of suitable housing in London and beyond, the Home Office must take a more compassionate approach to such cases.

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