Some of the most vulnerable migrants are those who have been trafficked. How can a trafficked person establish that they face a risk of persecution on return to their country of origin?

Prior to this recent decision, for a trafficked woman to establish that she faced a real risk of persecution on return to Nigeria, she had to satisfy the old guidance laid out in PO (trafficked women) Nigeria [2009] UKAIT 00046. She would have to evidence that she was trafficked by a gang who had fixed “target earnings” in terms of money and that this target had not yet been met. That guidance was extremely limited. This is no longer valid.

The recent decision in HD (Trafficked Women) Nigeria CG [2016] UKUT 00454 (IAC) has put new emphasis on the vulnerability to re-trafficking. In assessing vulnerability, aspects such as having no social support network to assist the individual, little or no education or vocational skills, mental health conditions, which may well have been caused by experiences of abuse when originally trafficked, material and financial deprivation (poverty or destitution) are factors to be considered.

It is recognised that there are individuals with a high risk and low risk of being re-trafficked. Consequently, the court has split the factors accordingly:

Factors for Enhanced Risk:

  1. The absence of a supportive family willing to take her back into the family unit;
  2. Visible or discernible characteristics of vulnerability; and
  3. The fact that a woman was previously trafficked is likely to mean that she has characteristics of vulnerability, which were identified by the traffickers once, and would be identified again.

Factors for Lower Risk:

  1. The availability of a supportive family willing to take the woman back into the family unit; and
  2. The fact that the woman has acquired skills and experiences since leaving Nigeria that better equip her to have access to a livelihood on return to Nigeria, thus enabling her to provide for herself.

The Court also found that if a woman is received by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Traffic in Persons shelter in Nigeria it is very unlikely she will be at risk of being re-trafficked while she is in the shelter. Of course, the risk should be reassessed when she leaves the shelter.

The question of internal relocation also needs to be considered within the country of nationality as to whether it would be unduly harsh in the individual circumstances. However, this is unlikely to be a feasible option for an individual with characteristics of vulnerability.

The likelihood of meeting this new test by evidencing vulnerability is significantly improved, compared to the prospect of satisfying the old test. It is hoped that this will reduce the possibility of returning individuals who possess characteristics which themselves may lead to a risk of re-trafficking.

If you need advice on this area, please do contact our Edinburgh or Glasgow Immigration Team.