Returned home to face risk from her traffickers, Moldovan woman wins damages

Settlement comes prior to high court hearing of her claim against Home Office
14th April 2011: Sent back home in Moldova where she faced risk from her traffickers, a sex trafficking victim has won substantial damages from the Home Office.
A repeated victim of sex trafficking, the Moldovan woman had suffered severe sexual degradation, but is now to be paid substantial damages by the Home Office

The settlement came just prior to a high court hearing of her claim against the Home Office for its inability to initiate steps to safeguard her and for returning her to Moldova, even though there were substantial grounds to believe she was at risk from her traffickers.

Kidnapped when she was just 14, she was constantly trafficked and re-trafficked for forced prostitution in Italy, Turkey, Hungary, Romania, Israel and Britain. It continued till she turned 21.

According to her solicitor Harriet Wistrich of Birnberg Peirce and Partners, the woman was over and over again beaten, raped and threatened with death. She was, rather, treated as a slave.

Arrested by police and immigration officers in a brothel in London in 2003, she was charged with possessing false documents provided by her traffickers instead of rescuing her.

What followed was three months imprisonment before she was sent back to Moldova through a fast-track immigration process.

In the process, her trafficker was neither investigated nor arrested. He was rather permitted to pay a visit to her in Holloway prison and Oakington detention centre after posing as her boyfriend. The intention was to intimidate her

Wistrich asserted she was ill-treated before being trafficked back into prostitution for a further two years after being found by her trafficker upon return to Moldova.

She was held at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre after being again arrested in Britain in 2007.

She was later referred to the Poppy project and was identified as a victim of sex trafficking. She was provided with the necessary support to make an asylum claim.

The woman has been granted refugee status as the Moldovan authorities could not ensure adequate protection against her traffickers.

Immigration minister Damian Green has already described  it as a very disturbing case, showing why the approach to human trafficking had changed significantly since 2003.

The UK introduced a mechanism to identify and refer victims of trafficking and established mandatory training for all frontline immigration staff, he said.

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