Nancy Esiovwa says the five years since she escaped slavery have been as traumatic as her captivity. Now she is fighting the Home Office in court.
Ten years ago, when she was being held as a slave in a family house in Bedfordshire, beaten and working without pay, the only thing that kept Nancy Esiovwa from despair was the belief that she would one day be free. Now she is. But her life since gaining freedom has, she says, been as traumatic and desperate as her experience at the hands of her traffickers.
Shortly after she was identified by the Home Office as a victim of modern slavery in 2014, Esiovwa was left without any kind of support. She ended up on the streets, homeless and destitute and facing violence and assault. The Home Office has turned down her application for asylum and refused to grant her leave to remain. She now lives in daily fear of facing immigration detention or being sent back to Nigeria – the same country to which her traffickers, who have threatened to kill her, have returned.
Her story is not unique. The Home Office has been under increasing pressure to improve their treatment of slavery victims. Frontline agencies say people are being abandoned and failed in their thousands by a system that is supposed to protect and support them.
Esiovwa has decided to fight back. She is taking the Home Office to court over its decision to deny her leave to remain, arguing that it failed in its legal obligation to consider her trafficking status and right to access ongoing counseling and mental health services. The case follows a landmark ruling in 2018 that forced the government to lower the threshold for allowing trafficking victims leave to remain; currently, only 12% of victims who apply get a positive decision.
“I don’t feel that my trafficking status, or my very urgent need to get mental health support to recover from what I’ve been through, both at the hands of my traffickers and at the hands of the Home Office, have been considered,” she says.
“Everyone thinks that when you escape from slavery it is a happy ending, but that’s not true. Even though the government has accepted I’ve been a victim of slavery, they have just seen me as an immigration problem that they want to get rid of.”
To read the full article by Annie Keely on The Guardian: Click HereTags: England, Home Office, immigration