Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on survivors / people with lived experiences of modern slavery and human trafficking:
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.
– Risks to children, particularly online risks.
– These are the four key impacts that are associated with the continuation and expected increased rates of exploitation throughout the pandemic.
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.
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.
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
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.