Thursday, 23rd January 2020

Update: As of 11th February 2020, over 411,000 people have signed Samet's petition. However his most recent appeal was refused by the Home Office. You can take action by contacting your MP asking them to take up his case and our stable futures campaign with the Home Secretary. With your postcode to hand, you can tweet or email your MP in a matter of minutes.

A young victim of trafficking who faces removal from the UK will visit the Home Office to demand a stable future with the support of an incredible 266,600 people. Campaigners from Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT UK) will join youth advocates and supporters marching on the Home Office this Thursday to secure a reversal of its decision to remove him from the UK.

Home Office putting trafficked teens at risk
Samet was trafficked to the UK as a child. He was forced to beg on the streets of Albania at 11 years old, before being trafficked into the UK aged 15. In the UK, he found safety and security with a supportive foster carer and foster brothers, and he is studying to become a carpenter. Yet the Home Office plans to remove him to Albania where he has no family support system and faces a high risk of re-trafficking and retributions from his traffickers.

Following a high profile campaign and celebrity support, a petition calling on the Home Office to keep Samet in the UK has secured the support of 266,600 people. A song in support of Samet by music artist Stevie D Red reached second place in Amazon’s ‘top seller’ music list, raising awareness of the obstacles facing young people like Samet.

ECPAT UK has supported Samet’s case as part of its stable futures campaign, which calls on the government to provide young victims of trafficking with a long term immigration decision that is in their long term best interests and an independent guardian to support them through the many complex legal, criminal justice and support services they encounter.

Leading academics urge government to fulfil children’s rights
ECPAT UK and The Children’s Society have long campaigned for independent guardians – currently only available to trafficked children in certain parts of the country – to be made available to all trafficked and unaccompanied children in the UK. The charities have the backing of 21 leading UK academics who have today written to the Home Office in response to the government’s Independent Review of the Modern Slavery Act 2015, which assessed the guardianship scheme.

The academics expressed concern with the review, explaining that independent guardianship for unaccompanied and separated children seeking asylum ‘is a right that is embedded within international and European law and standards’.

The letter highlights that unaccompanied children’s age and stage in development, their legal status as migrants and a lack of parent or guardian means they are excluded from basic child protections. As many as 1 in 6 unaccompanied or trafficked children go missing from care; many ending up in exploitation.

Independent guardianship is essential to ensure children’s best interests are represented in decision making that affects their lives, and to ensure they have a stable future. This is particularly important in the UK as unaccompanied refugee children lack the right to be reunified with their families.

Catherine Baker, Senior Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer at ECPAT UK, said

“Too many young people like Samet and many others we support end up re-traumatised after they have left situations of exploitation, because they’re left in limbo waiting for drawn out immigration decisions and live in fear of being returned to countries where they aren’t safe and supported.

“Without a system which gives them some basic stability and a viable alternative to going back into exploitation – which many perceive as their best option - these young will continue to be at risk of further harm rather than able live up to their full potential.”

John Stokes, Samet’s foster carer, said

“To rescue desperate children from abuse and exploitation, to give them hope, stability and purpose only to then abandon them should not be acceptable in a civilised society.” 

Azmina Siddique, Policy and Research Manager at The Children’s Society said:

“It is vital that all children who have been separated from their parents and are all alone in a new country are not left to navigate complex legal asylum and immigration systems by themselves. The Children’s Society has long campaigned for independent legal guardians to be introduced for all unaccompanied and separated children.

“We know from our research and experience delivering frontline services that a lack of support can cause real harm to young people – from higher chances of developing severe mental health issues to an increased risk of self-harming and even suicide. It is crucial they have access to a trusted adult who will represent their best interests and ensure their voice is heard.”

ENDS

Notes
Samet and his supporters will attend the Home Office to deliver the 264,000-strong petition at 12 noon on Thursday, 23rd January 2020. Journalists and accredited press photographers are invited to attend. Interviews will be available in advance or on the day with Catherine Baker - ECPAT UK’s Senior Campaigns Officer and John Stokes – Samet’s foster carer and others involved in the campaign. We regret that due to our safeguarding duties, we are unable to facilitate an in-person interview with any young victim of trafficking. Written case studies can be provided on request. Please contact Sinead Geoghegan at ECPAT UK and Charlie Neal at The Children’s Society using the contact details below for further details or to request an interview.

More information on ECPAT UK and The Children’s Society’s campaign for independent guardians for all trafficked, unaccompanied and separated children is available here.

More information on ECPAT UK’s stable futures campaign is available here. It calls on the government to:

  • Expand the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian service in England and Wales to all unaccompanied children as well as those already identified as potentially trafficked.
  • Establish a process to find a long-term, sustainable arrangement for each child victim of trafficking, including providing each child with an immigration decision that is based on their best interests.

Press contact
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected], 020 7607 2136 or 07402 113 985

To contact Catherine Baker on the day, call Phil Spencer from ECPAT UK on 07846 842 738 or email [email protected]