Immigration Enforcement has been given the power to decide whether or not someone is a victim of human trafficking. An update to the Modern Slavery guidance, published on 8 November, includes an “Immigration Enforcement Competent Authority” alongside what was the sole, centralised decision-making body, the “Single Competent Authority”.
The Immigration Enforcement Competent Authority is responsible for:
- All adult Foreign National Offenders (FNOs) detained in an Immigration Removal Centre.
- All adult FNOs in prison where a decision to deport has been made.
- All adult FNOs in prison where a decision has yet to be made on deportation.
- Non-detained adult FNOs where action to pursue cases towards deportation is taken in the community .
- All individuals detained in an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) managed by the National Returns Command (NRC), including those in the Detained Asylum Casework (DAC) process.
- All individuals in the Third Country Unit (TCU)/inadmissible process irrespective of whether detained or non-detained.
That leaves the Single Competent Authority with all other trafficking cases, including any concerned with children.
The Home Office professes to believe that the trafficking system is being abused. 90% of trafficking referrals from detention centres in 2019 saw the person pass the first stage, the “reasonable grounds” decision, according to internal analysis. Giving the department’s enforcement arm its own decision-making powers is likely intended to foster a culture of greater scepticism about trafficking claims from people being lined up for deportation.