‘She should hang her head in shame’: Theresa May accused of failing child victims of modern slavery

Following revelations that hundreds of child victims of modern slavery have been refused asylum, SNP MP calls on the prime minister to apologise

  • Theresa May grilled by SNP MP Kirsty Blackman at PMQs following reports that hundreds of child victims of modern slavery have been refused asylum or discretionary leave
  • May responds by claiming the UK Government “constantly look at how we improve our response to modern slavery”
  • Labour MP David Lammy slams ‘hostile environment’ policy following revelation that several modern slavery victims have been detained in UK immigration centres, despite Home Office claims that no “central record” of such detainments exists

THERESA MAY has been challenged to apologise to the hundreds of child victims of modern slavery who have been refused asylum or discretionary leave to remain during her tenure as prime minister.

Buzzfeed News revealed this week that the Home Office rejected 310 applications for discretionary leave to remain – a temporary right to stay in the UK in cases where the applicant has suffered extreme hardship - and 65 asylum claims made by child victims of slavery between April 2017 and the end of 2018.

Of the 326 applications made by children officially recognised as modern slavery victims who had requested discretionary leave to remain — a temporary right to stay in the UK if a person has suffered extreme hardship – the Home Office only approved 16.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions today [17 July], SNP MP Kirsty Blackman asked May if she would now “apologise or hang her head in shame” at the “cruel and callous hostile environment” created at her instigation.

“The reality is that the harmful hostile environment will be Theresa May’s toxic legacy. She had the opportunity to apologise and she didn’t take it.” SNP MP Kirsty Blackman

Without offering any such apology, May replied: “We do of course constantly look at how we improve our response to modern slavery.

“I’m very pleased I had a meeting only a few days ago where I met many people involved in organisations dealing with supporting victims of modern slavery, but also those who are involved in the prosecution of perpetrators of modern slavery, and those parliamentarians who have been involved in the independent review that took place of the Modern Slavery Act. We’re going to take on board most of the recommendations from that act."

Speaking in June, May said that world leaders have a “moral duty” to speak up for the victims of modern slavery.

Blackman, the SNP’s depute leader at Westminster, said afterwards: “Theresa May claims to care about people whose lives have been destroyed by modern slavery and that her work in this area will be part of her legacy, yet hundreds of child victims have been refused the lifeline they desperately need – this is her legacy and it is one to be ashamed of.

“Her cruel and callous hostile environment has resulted in the Windrush scandal, the detention of children and pregnant women, and child victims of modern slavery - many who have faced unimaginable horror, turned away and left to fend for themselves.

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“The Prime Minister’s call of helping the victims of modern slavery, as she encouraged world leaders to do just last month, has been revealed to be nothing more than hollow rhetoric.

“It is time the Tories’ actions matched their words when it comes to tackling modern slavery and protecting the victims, and I would urge the next Prime Minister to take urgent action on this.

“The reality is that the harmful hostile environment will be Theresa May’s toxic legacy. She had the opportunity to apologise and she didn’t take it – she should hang her head in shame.”

Buzzfeed News has also reported that several charities have accused the Home Office of a “cover up”, after figures were released under Freedom of Information laws showing that several modern slavery victims have been detained in UK immigrant centres, despite Home Office claims that there was “no central record of those figures”.

Labour MP David Lammy, an outspoken opponent of the Conservatives’ ‘hostile environment’ policy, also commented: "This is yet another odious manifestation of the government’s Hostile Environment policy, which seeks to criminalise innocent people and turn victims into suspects.

“The fact that vulnerable children have managed to free themselves from slavery, only to be detained and threatened with deportation from this country, is unforgivable.”

Picture courtesy of EU2017EE Estonian Presidency


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