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Nigerian country guidance case strengthens protection for trafficked women


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In HD (Trafficked women) Nigeria CG [2016] UKUT 00454 (IAC) the Upper Tribunal considered the position of victims of trafficking returning to Nigeria.

Under the previous country guidance case, PO (trafficked women) Nigeria [2009] UKAIT 00046, in order to demonstrate a real risk of persecution on return to Nigeria, a victim of trafficking needed to demonstrate that they were trafficked by a criminal gang and that the gang had set ‘target earnings’ – that is, a certain amount of money that the individual was required to earn for the trafficker in their trafficking situation e.g. through prostitution – that had not yet been earned. For many extremely vulnerable claimants, it was simply not possible to show that their case fell within this very narrow risk category.

In HD, the Upper Tribunal took a very different – and qualitatively more permissive – tack. Essentially, the key risk criterion is now vulnerability to re-trafficking. So, under the new country guidance, if an individual can demonstrate that they are vulnerable to a being re-trafficked on the facts, they are likely to be able to demonstrate a real risk of persecution on return to their home area (irrespective of by whom and for what purpose they were originally trafficked – though these might be relevant factors). Further, the very same vulnerability is likely to mean that internal relocation will be neither safe nor reasonable.

The headnote provides:

  1. The guidance set out in PO (trafficked women) Nigeria [2009] UKAIT 00046 at paragraphs 191-192 should no longer be followed.
  1. Although the Government of Nigeria recognises that the trafficking of women, both internally and transnationally, is a significant problem to be addressed, it is not established by the evidence that for women in general in Nigeria there is a real risk of being trafficked. 
  1. For a woman returning to Nigeria, after having been trafficked to the United Kingdom, there is in general no real risk of retribution or of being trafficked afresh by her original traffickers.
  1. Whether a woman returning to Nigeria having previously been trafficked to the United Kingdom faces on return a real risk of being trafficked afresh will require a detailed assessment of her particular and individual characteristics. Factors that will indicate an enhanced risk of being trafficked include, but are not limited to:
  1. The absence of a supportive family willing to take her back into the family unit;
  2. Visible or discernible characteristics of vulnerability, such as having no social support network to assist her, no or little education or vocational skills, mental health conditions, which may well have been caused by experiences of abuse when originally trafficked, material and financial deprivation such as to mean that she will be living in poverty or in conditions of destitution;
  3. The fact that a woman was previously trafficked is likely to mean that she was then identified by the traffickers as someone disclosing characteristics of vulnerability such as to give rise to a real risk of being trafficked. On returning to Nigeria, it is probable that those characteristics of vulnerability will be enhanced further in the absence of factors that suggest otherwise.
  1. Factors that indicate a lower risk of being trafficked include, but are not limited to:
  1. The availability of a supportive family willing to take the woman back into the family unit;
  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.
  1. There will be little risk of being trafficked if received into a NAPTIP shelter or a shelter provided by an NGO for the time that she is there, but that support is likely to be temporary, possibly for just a few weeks, and there will need to be a careful assessment of the position of the woman when she leaves the shelter.
  1. For a woman who does face a real risk of being trafficked if she returns to her home area, the question of whether internal relocation will be available as a safe and reasonable alternative that will not be unduly harsh will require a detailed assessment of her particular circumstances. For a woman who discloses the characteristics of vulnerability described above that are indicative of a real risk of being trafficked, internal relocation is unlikely to be a viable alternative.

The appellant in the case succeeded; the decision of the First-tier Tribunal to dismiss her appeal was reversed. The factual background is grim reading (see paragraphs 195-6). She was found to have very serious mental health issues and to have been trafficked by an organised criminal group, though it was unlikely to maintain an interest in her on return to Nigeria. Nevertheless, because of her particular vulnerability, she was found to face a real risk of retrafficking in her home area. For the same reason, internal relocation would not be safe or reasonable.

HD’s barristers were Kathryn Cronin and Bijan Hoshi of Garden Court Chambers and Matthew Moriarty of Luqmani Thompson and Partners. Her solicitor was Milla Walker of Luqmani Thompson and Partners.


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Bijan Hoshi

Bijan is a barrister practicing in public law and human rights at Garden Court Chambers. He undertakes work in all areas of immigration, asylum and nationality law.