26 April 2021: From Mariko Hayashi, Director of SN$A signatory organisation Southeast and East Asian Centre (SEEAC): “The UK is one of the major destinations of victims of human trafficking from Vietnam, which was the third most common nationality of all referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as potential victims in 2020. The figures show that between 2018 and 2020, in only three years, 2,242 Vietnamese people have been identified as potential victims of human trafficking. I am very concerned that some of the individuals removed from the UK without proper due process could have been victims of human trafficking.
The hostile environment policies and border securitisation, which often criminalise migrants who are vulnerable to exploitation, perpetuate violation of human rights and even put these migrants at risk of being re-trafficked.”
22 April 2021: Guardian: Concerns raised over legal advice for Vietnamese migrants deported from UK
Six of 14 enforced removals did not spend five working days in immigration removal centre prior to flight
Concerns have been raised over whether Vietnamese migrants who were forcibly removed from the UK on a Home Office flight may have been put on the plane in breach of the department’s own rules on access to legal counsel.
Twenty-seven Vietnamese nationals were removed on Wednesday on the flight, which took off from Birmingham. It is believed to have been booked with the holiday airline Tui, although the company refused to confirm or deny this. Fourteen were enforced returns and 13 were voluntary departures.
According to an email from a government lawyer seen by the Guardian, of the 14 enforced removals, six did not spend five working days in an immigration removal centre (IRC) prior to the flight, where they would have had access to legal advice surgeries and instead were held in prisons or a short-term holding facility for part of that period, where it is more difficult to access legal advice.
Government rules state that everyone should be given five working days with full access to legal advice prior to being removed to give them an opportunity to verify whether the planned removal is lawful. As Vietnam is one of the top source countries for trafficking into the UK, there are concerns that some of those deported might be victims of trafficking who are entitled to protection here.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We complied fully with the due legal process, including ensuring those removed had opportunities for legal advice in this charter flight and to suggest otherwise is completely wrong.”
Note that two days before:
20 April 2021: Guardian: UK Home Office charters its first ever deportation flight to Vietnam
This article includes the following from Jesuit Refugee Service who are signatories to the StatusNow4Alll campaign:
William Neal, detention outreach officer at Jesuit Refugee Service UK, an organisation providing support to some of those facing removal to Vietnam tomorrow, who are now detained in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre near Heathrow, said: “We have often seen how charter flights are used to enforce blanket removal without sufficient legal scrutiny, and without proper consideration of the human impact of removal.”
“We support individuals faced with removal on charter flights, and see the fear and uncertainty this can cause. The charter flight tomorrow is therefore of deep concern. This is part of a system that wants to avoid transparency, and the basic safeguards that can offer to individuals. Some of the individuals we support, who are facing removal tomorrow, are survivors of trafficking and modern slavery in the UK. “
Migrant rights organisations are concerned that those due to fly have not had full access to legal advice
Charities and human rights campaigners have expressed alarm at a decision by the Home Office to charter its first ever deportation flight to Vietnam.
The Guardian has learned that the flight is due to take off on Wednesday, though it is unclear why the government has decided to remove the Vietnamese nationals at a time when deportations are at a historically low level due to the pandemic.
Migrant rights organisations are concerned that those due to be removed have not had full access to legal and other advice due to the pandemic. It is understood that at least one of those due to fly tomorrow has lodged last-minute legal submissions based on being a potential victim of trafficking.