Authorities seize assets from human traffickers - but none of NI’s 344 victims have been able to claim compensation

Out of 344 potential victims of human trafficking rescued in NI in the past five years, not one has been successful in receiving compensation.

Tuesday, 23rd February 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 9:25 am

Similar figures uncovered across the UK have resulted in a leading charity warning that UK governments are failing in their legal duty to ensure victims of modern slavery can access compensation to help them rebuild their lives.

The Council of Europe – a human rights body separate to the EU of which the UK is a member – obligates the government to ensure slavery victims can access compensation both from exploiters and the state.

The UK government’s modern slavery strategy also underlines a commitment to compensation, noting it “can be very important in a survivor’s recovery”.

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Human trafficking

But a probe by JPIMedia Investigation found evidence victims cross the UK are being denied the chance to recoup damages.

Freedom of information (FOI) requests to the Department of Justice in NI revealed that out of the 344 potential victims rescued by the authorities in NI since 2015, only nine have applied for compensation through the NI Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme. However, not one of them has received a penny, with two applications still awaiting a decision.

An FOI to the government’s Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) for GB found, similarly, that out of 254 applications from 2015-2020 only between 24 and 56 awards were made.

Rebecca Stevenson, NI policy officer with public affairs charity CARE, said she is “deeply concerned” about the inability of victims to access compensation. “There are problems with the current criminal injuries compensation scheme which means victims sometimes do not qualify for compensation, even though the National Referral Mechanism [the UK’s process for identifying victims] has confirmed them as genuine victims,” she said.

NI’s 2015 Human Trafficking and Exploitation Act created Reparation Orders, which require perpetrators to compensate victims upon conviction. But an FOI request to the NI Courts shows not one has yet been issued.

Tamara Barnett, director of the Human Trafficking Foundation, says the UK as a whole is failing to meet its Council of Europe obligations on compensation.

“Sexual and labour exploitation is all about money. It’s really painful that victims don’t ever see that money come back to them,” she said.

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