Home Secretary required to accommodate street homeless victim of trafficking in London

Turpin Miller represented AB, a destitute Romanian national, in her challenge to the failure of the Secretary of State for the Home Department (‘SSHD’) to provide her with suitable accommodation to protect and assist her as a victim of trafficking. The Administrative Court made an interim relief order mandating the SSHD to accommodate AB in London and she was subsequently provided with accommodation.

AB was trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation. After her escape she was subjected to domestic servitude by an ex-partner. She is highly vulnerable. She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression and anxiety. She has a history of criminal offending which professionals have linked to her vulnerability. AB became street homeless in February 2024 and slept in a tent, despite professional concerns that it exposed her to a very high risk of exploitation.

Professionals supporting AB asked for her to be accommodated in London where she could remain close to her support network. The SSHD resisted this, relying largely on assessments by its contractor, the Salvation Army, undertaken in circumstances where AB was unable (because of her vulnerability) to specify the location where she had been exploited. By the time of the interim relief hearing, this was clarified and the Salvation Army no longer maintained that AB was at risk of harm in all of London.

The Court agreed that in failing to consider the professional evidence of AB’s needs and risk of harm to her if relocated outside London, the SSHD arguably acted in breach of AB’s fundamental rights and duties towards victims of trafficking, and exposed her to destitution and a risk of re-trafficking. The Court also found arguable AB’s claim that even if suitable accommodation could not be found under the SSHD’s Modern Slavery Victim Care Contract, the SSHD had a separate duty to provide accommodation to AB under schedule 10 Immigration Act 2016.

The client was represented by Ben Goldberg, Mike Poulter and Ezzy Phillips of Turpin Miller’s legal aid team, who assist victims of trafficking with ensuring they are provided adequate support and accommodation in the community.

Counsel was Agata Patyna from Doughty Street Chambers. Turpin Miller would like to thank Ella Thomson, our client’s advocate at the charity Pecan, for her ongoing support for our client and her evidence that was provided to the Court which was instrumental in obtaining interim relief.