MORE than 80,000 people, including the Bishop of Durham and 32 MPs, have signed an open letter calling on the Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, to intervene in the case of a Vietnamese-born youth facing expulsion from the UK (News, 12 January).
The letter to Ms Rudd was handed in on Tuesday as an immigration tribunal resumed its hearing of an appeal against a Home Office move to return Stephen (not his real name) to Vietnam. The 20-year-old was trafficked as an orphan, aged ten, into Britain, and worked as a slave in a series of cannabis farms. After six years he was rescued during a police raid, and placed in the foster care of the Priest-in-Charge of St John’s, Shildon, in Co. Durham, the Revd David Tomlinson, and his wife, Davina.
When Stephen turned 18, his immigration status changed, and he had to apply for asylum, citing a lack of ties to his county of birth and potential religious persecution after his conversion to Christianity. Last Christmas, however, his application was rejected.
An appeal launched this year has progressed through a series of hearings and adjournments to allow immigration officials time to reconsider their case, but his supporters hoped that this week’s hearing on Tyneside would come to a final conclusion. The hearing was, however, adjourned to allow new material put forward by the Home Office to be studied by Stephen’s lawyers. A new date for the hearing has not been set.
The letter of support, which included the signatures of members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery, was delivered by the online campaign group 38 Degrees. A campaigner, Cathy Warren, said: “The Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have committed to ending the injustice of modern slavery. The Home Office’s decision to refuse asylum to ‘Stephen’, a young man identified by the Government as a victim of modern slavery, betrays the Home Secretary’s commitment to putting victims first.”
The head of advocacy, policy, and campaigns at ECPAT UK (Every Child Protected Against Trafficking), Chloe Setter, said: “Sadly, Stephen’s case is not uncommon. We know that thousands of children are exploited in the UK. To remove him to Vietnam, where he could face a real risk of retrafficking, is cruel, and goes against the UK’s strong stance on tackling modern slavery.”