Child trafficking victims like Mo Farah are not getting a fair hearing | Letters

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The Guardian

The revelations by Mo Farah of his early life experience comes as no surprise (Sir Mo Farah reveals he was trafficked into the UK using another child’s name, 11 July). Some years ago we met a teenager who had had a similar experience. They were sold by their parents to another family, at about the age of six, who then brought them to the UK under diplomatic cover. They were then effectively used as a slave. When we met them they had had some schooling. They were incredibly industrious and, with some help, we managed to get them away from the family and allow them to go to college.

Our problems were just beginning. We wanted to get their status in the UK on a proper footing, but had not accounted for the dead hand of the Home Office. Although we employed specialist human rights lawyers, no progress was made and the Home Office seemed determined to deport them.

We will never get close to solving the problem if the expectation is that any contact with the authorities, to try to regularise their status, will be met by Home Office determination to deport them.
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Sir Mo Farah’s courageous decision to speak out about his childhood experience of trafficking must go beyond news headlines and statements of support, and lead to action to protect trafficked children and prevent others suffering harm. It must encourage the government to listen to more trafficking survivors – including those who do not have public platforms.

As the UK reviews its modern slavery strategy, survivors’ experiences will be key to creating effective solutions that protect victims’ rights and create a safe environment to access help. Sadly, it is still rare for survivors’ voices to be heard in debate around these issues. Farah’s story is a reminder that if the UK is serious about eradicating trafficking, we need to listen to those with lived experience – and not just listen, but act.
David Westlake
CEO, International Justice Mission UK

July 18, 2022 at 11:13PM Letters

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