We gather new clinical evidence and attend appeal hearings as expert witnesses. Our Medico-Legal reports documenting the harm done to clients enable decision-makers in the Courts and the Home Office to make informed decisions. We work closely with human rights lawyers and firms of solicitors who donate their services pro bono. With the cut-backs in legal aid, their generosity is matched only by their commitment.
Elira* is a survivor of trafficking for sexual exploitation from Albania who was referred to HBF. Despite being a recognised victim of trafficking, Elira was detained by UK immigration authorities and a decision was made very quickly to remove her from the country. Elira was given just two days’ notice that she would be removed and was not allocated an appropriate legal representative to challenge the decision.
Elira contacted HBF’s Head of Counter-Trafficking in extreme panic and distress. HBF’s Counter-Trafficking team and Medico-Legal team provided urgent information detailing Elira’s recognition as a victim of trafficking and her mental health needs. Thanks to the swift and detailed intervention, Elira was released from detention.
Following this incident, the Counter-Trafficking and medico-legal teams have been working with Elira on areas of her account which are leading to negative decisions from the UK immigration authorities. Although Elira’s trafficking history has been found to be credible, her account of having left her family of her own accord means that the authority’s dispute she has a genuine fear of persecution if returned to her country of origin. As with many survivors of trafficking, Elira originally disclosed just enough to secure her immediate security and is only now, after considerable support from HBF, able to make full disclosure of her experiences. Elira has recently disclosed to the Counter-Trafficking team that her original account of having simply left her family home with a deceptive ‘boyfriend’ who became her trafficker was inaccurate. She had in fact been sold to the trafficker by her family. The reason for her limited initial disclosure was fear that the family would kill her mother – in Elira’s country of origin this is possible due to the prevailing traditional and patriarchal ‘honour’ system. During the past six months, we have secured a specialised solicitor who has experience of working with ‘late disclosure cases’ in the asylum context.
Elira has a difficult road ahead of her and we will continue to offer intensive contact and safeguarding to ensure that she receives a fair and just determination on her claim for asylum in the UK.
*all names are pseudonyms