Friday, 11th October 2019

ECPAT UK has been granted permission to intervene in an important appeal before the Supreme Court which will impact trafficked children’s ability to lead stable lives in the long term. ECPAT UK will now draw on its expertise and experience in assisting trafficked young people to act as a third party intervener in the case of MS (Pakistan) v The Secretary of State for the Home Department.

MS, a victim of trafficking from Pakistan, was brought to England in 2011 by his step-grandmother. He was 16 years old and told he was coming to study, but was instead put to work in various food shops. Just over a year later, he came to the attention of the police and was referred to social services. Social workers then referred then referred MS into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – the UK’s system for identifying victims of trafficking and modern slavery – as they suspected he was a victim of trafficking.

However, in February 2013 he was issued with a negative ‘reasonable grounds’ decision by the Home Office, meaning he was not officially recognised by the government as a child victim of trafficking and therefore not afforded the protection he needed. MS appealed this decision at the Immigration Tribunal whose Upper Tribunal ruled that MS was indeed a victim of trafficking and entitled to protection.

The Home Office appealed the Upper Tribunal’s decision at the Court of Appeal, which ruled that the Upper Tribunal had overstepped its powers and was bound by the original decision declaring MS was not a victim of trafficking. It also adopted a ruling from a different case that the identification of a victim of trafficking does not engage the UK’s obligations under Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

The case is now being appealed once more, at the Supreme Court. Due to ECPAT UK’s expertise and 25 years’ experience of assisting child victims of trafficking, the Supreme Court yesterday granted ECPAT UK permission to intervene in the appeal. This means we will provide evidence to assist the court in reaching its decision.

This case is not only important for MS but for the ability of other victims of trafficking, particularly children, to access their rights to recover in the long term and live stable lives. This is why the Supreme Court will be determining whether the Court of Appeal’s approach meant the UK breached its international human rights obligations. If the Supreme Court rules in MS’ favour, it will set a precedent that clarifies the scope of Article 4 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) with regard to the state’s legal duties to uphold the rights of trafficking victims. The decision may reverse the increasingly restrictive case law on legal remedies for victims of trafficking. 

Laura Durán, Senior Policy and Research Officer at ECPAT UK, said

‘Intervening in this appeal provides a vital opportunity to inform the court of the significant road blocks young people face accessing justice and securing long term stability.’

‘Based on our experience working with young people, ECPAT UK will provide a clear picture of the numerous obstacles child victims encounter to access support and stability so these are understood and we can have better outcomes for trafficked children.’

The Supreme Court will begin hearing MS’ case on 21st November, 2019.



The Supreme Court hearing begins on 21st November, 2019. Given its expertise and experience in this field, ECPAT UK is a ‘third party intervener’ in this investigation. It is represented by a legal team: Zubier Yazdani, Partner at Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors, Raza Husain QC and Eleanor Mitchell of Matrix Chambers and Shane Sibbel of Blackstone Chambers.

Previous decisions on this case can be found here:

Upper Tribunal Decision (Immigration and Asylum Chamber)

England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division) Decision

ECPAT UK’s Senior Policy and Research Officer, Laura Durán, is leading ECPAT UK’s intervention and is available to give media interviews. Please contact Sinead Geoghegan using the details below to arrange an interview or written comment.

ECPAT UK is a leading children’s rights organisation campaigning to protect children from trafficking and transnational exploitation. We support children everywhere to uphold their right sand to live a life free from abuse and exploitation. ECPAT UK has a long history of campaigning for the rights of trafficked children, and has been instrumental in raising awareness of child trafficking in the UK and transnational child exploitation. ECPAT UK produced the first research into child trafficking in the UK in 2001 and has successfully advocated for change in policy and legislation to improve the response of the UK Government and its international counterparts to such abuse.

ECPAT UK carries out an ongoing programme of research, training of frontline professionals, youth support and campaigning. Youth participation informs ECPAT UK’s work so that young victims of trafficking have their voices heard and shape the narratives and decisions that affect their lives. ECPAT UK is part of the ECPAT International network, present in 95 countries, working to end child exploitation.  

Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected], 0207 607 2136