Home Office officials have provoked outrage by stating that trafficked women from Nigeria can return to the country “wealthy from prostitution” and “held in high regard”.
The comments are found in an official policy and information note on the trafficking of women from Nigeria, which is used by Home Office decision-makers handling protection and human rights claims.
The guidance has been updated to include a paragraph on the prospects of trafficked women if they return to Nigeria, citing EU and Australian reports that make similar observations, which was not in the last version published in November 2016.
The paragraph reads: “Trafficked women who return from Europe, wealthy from prostitution, enjoy high social-economic status and in general are not subject to negative social attitudes on return. They are often held in high regard because they have improved income prospects.”
Dr Charlotte Proudman, a human rights barrister who represents women and girls in cases of gender-based violence, particularly female genital mutilation, said: “The Home Office’s deplorable policy on the trafficking of women in Nigeria shows the hostility that women victims face in claiming asylum in the UK. Suggesting that trafficked women are wealthy and enjoy a [high] socioeconomic status is fundamentally wrong.
“The women that I represent in immigration courts often suffer from PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and are always destitute. They have usually been raped repeatedly and beaten and their family have disowned them. Some even face the risk of violent reprisals on return home. The abuse they experience is akin to slavery.
“The picture painted by the Home Office is far from reality and serves only to further myths about prostitution and sex trafficking. The policy will no doubt encourage decision-makers on behalf of the home secretary to refuse even more asylum claims.
“The Home Office needs to issue an apology and immediately amend the policy.”