The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on survivors / people with lived experiences of modern slavery and human trafficking. The findings below are from the report: ‘The Benefits and the Barriers to Accessing Employment: Consideration for Survivors of Modern Slavery’ by Nottingham Rights Lab Research Fellow Kate Garbers (commissioned by the UK’s Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner).
COVID-19 has Impacted:
- Psychological health;
- Relations with wider family and friends;
- Financial status;
- Ability to return to a country of origin;
- Ability to do leisure or take enjoyment;
- Access to work;
- Ability to rest and care for self;
- Physical health;
- Sense of physical safety in accommodation;
- Relations with immediate family (including children);
- Access to decent working conditions;
- Sense of stability in accommodation.
Additional Risks Include:
- Digital poverty and exclusion;
- Access to information about COVID-19 entitlements;
- Discrimination towards migrant workers.
As a result of the pandemic, there are several reasons why the psychological health of survivors of exploitation have been negatively impacted:
- There have been issues accessing mental health services;
- Pre-existing mental health conditions may have worsened, and the lockdown has been a trigger of past traumas;
- Concerns that safeguarding issues may have been or could be missed;
- The uncertainties around immigration statuses act as a source of anxiety;
- Reduced participation in education, work, volunteering, support groups and face-to-face contact has harmed mental health;
- Testifying remotely to legal representatives or the Home Office without in-person support may be traumatic and emotionally uncomfortable for survivors.
- Overcrowded accommodation has meant self-isolation is not always possible;
- Some survivors have been unable to self-isolate due to financial pressures and/or a lack of government financial assistance;
- Pre-existing health conditions may be present, some of which may be connected to historic / current exploitation;
- There have been delays in initial health screening e.g. newly arrived Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC).
Barriers to Healthcare:
Survivors of exploitation or those in exploitative conditions may be reluctant to access healthcare for COVID-19 due to:
- Fears of deportation;
- Language barriers;
- Unaffordable costs;
- Being controlled by traffickers;
- Experiences of racism.
COVID-19 has increased economic vulnerabilities. Financial areas impacted that have affected survivors of exploitation the most include:
- The partial closures of food-banks and baby banks had increased financial pressure on survivors who would normally use these services;
- A rise in the costs of essential items has meant that some survivors were unable to afford mobile credit or data;
- Challenges accessing financial assistance;
- A loss of employment, including those on zero-hour contracts.
Risks to Children:
- Child survivors and children in exploitation have been severely impacted by the pandemic;
- Due to school closures, lack of social contact, cancelled social events and closed youth facilities, children have had a greater presence online. This has meant that the online sexual exploitation of children has increased;
- Perpetrators worldwide have shifted to online methods of exploitation, particularly targeting children;
- Newley arrived Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) who were required to self-isolate in unsupervised accommodation were placed at a potential risk of being trafficked.