The Home Office policy of deporting people to Vietnam who could well be victims of trafficking is being challenged by Lawyers following a second charter flight to the country during the last few weeks.
This recent challenge follows concern from lawyers and charities that some victims of trafficking could wrongly be removed from the UK under a rushed processing system for migrants in detention known as ‘detained asylum casework’.
Bringing the legal challenge against the Home Office for fast-tracking the removal of some Vietnamese people from the UK, Tom Nunn of Duncan Lewis solicitors said: “The concern is that a large number of Vietnamese nationals are being placed in this fast-track asylum process despite the fact that many show clear indications of trafficking”.
The latest flight was part of what is known as the Home Office’s ‘summer season’ of deportation flights to countries which include Zimbabwe, Vietnam, Jamaica, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria. Many Vietnamese victims of trafficking who eventually reach the UK are forced to work in cannabis farms or nail bars. During the last few months there has been an increase in Vietnamese people crossing the Channel to the UK on small boats.
A Facebook group set up for Vietnamese nationals in the UK discussed the latest charter flight and said that although some on the flight had opted for voluntary return it was not truly voluntary. Out of 13 people who voluntarily repatriated, only six actually asked to return. The remaining seven were kept in the immigration camp for so long they became discouraged and agreed to sign the application form to return to Vietnam.
The holiday flight company operating the Vietnam deportation flights was encouraged to end its collaboration with the Home Office, but declined to comment.
The deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson said: “It is quite clear that many Vietnamese suffer from exploitation and abuse on the long trail from Vietnam to Britain. What is concerning is how little concern the Vietnam government has for its own nationals preyed on by agents and brokers selling this dangerous journey to desperate people and the eagerness of the British government to send them back into dangerous situations by returning them to where they originally came from, regardless of the abuses they may have suffered.
Director of the charity Detention Action, Bella Sankey said: “Many Vietnamese survivors of modern slavery and trafficking are taken into detention and due to language barriers and trauma are unable to access the support to which they are entitled. A charter flight to Vietnam where individuals have been offered financial incentives to return risks delivering traumatised people to their traffickers.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We only ever return those who we or the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK”.