Victims of human trafficking receive residence permits after the UN stopped their deportation

September 23, 2019

Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers represent Joy, who survived human trafficking for sexual purposes, and her little son. After several lengthy legal proceedings, the Migration Board has now found that the family belongs to a particularly vulnerable group, human trafficking victims, and granted Joy and her son a residence permit and refugee status.

The family has previously been denied an application for asylum in Sweden and the Migration Board handed over the case to the Border Police for enforcement of the deportation, despite the fact that the Civil Sweden Platform against human trafficking in the case had stated that Joy and her son were at risk of being subjected to violence, re- trafficking and, in the worst case, the death of the criminal network of traffickers who previously sold and exploited Joy.

The newspaper Dagens ETC and the newspaper Dagen have previously written about the case:

https://sundsvall.etc.se/inrikes/joy-levde-som-sexslav-men-lyckades-fly-nu-ska-hon-utvisas

https://www.dagen.se/nyheter/joy-dromde-om-ett-nytt-liv-som-frisor-blev-sexslav-1.1459532?paywall=true

After the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers filed a complaint with the UN Committee against Torture, the Committee decided to stop the deportation. However, the deportation decision in Sweden was statute-barred in Sweden and a new examination of the need for protection was therefore initiated by the Swedish Migration Board, which easily led to the family now obtaining a residence permit and refugee status.

– It is extremely gratifying for the client and her little son to now be informed that they have been granted residence permit and refugee status in Sweden. At the same time, it is serious that the Migration Board has previously made decisions based on lack of knowledge about human trafficking victims and in violation of international conventions on human rights. Current country information describes major risks of a previous trafficking victim upon returning to Nigeria. The Nigerian authorities often lack resources to protect the victims. Our clients are thus at great risk of being subjected to torture or other inhuman treatment, which the Migration Board now after several years admits in a renewed asylum process, says Ruth Nordström, public counsel in the asylum process and chief legal counsel at the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.

– The decision is a positive step on the way in the work to ensure that Swedish authorities apply the conventions and commitments that Sweden has made to protect the particularly vulnerable group of victims of human trafficking, who often have deeply traumatic experiences and difficulties in exercising their own rights, says Rebecca Ahlstrand, lawyer at the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.

– The fact that the UN previously stopped the expulsion of the family and thus believes that the risk of re-trafficking and deportation of human trafficking victims may constitute a violation of the ban on torture, has hopefully influenced the Migration Board’s new decision to grant our clients residence permits. We believe that the UN has made a correct assessment; an expulsion of the family is contrary to Article 3 of the UN Convention against Torture and Article 3 of the European Convention. It follows from these provisions that a state may not execute a decision to refuse or expel to a country if the person runs the risk of being subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, says Ruth Nordström, chief legal counsel of the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.

– Sweden’s Convention commitments under the Council of Europe Convention on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, the UN Convention against Torture, the European Convention and the Convention on the rights of the Child contain comprehensive rules and practices that apply in particular to victims of trafficking in human beings. Sweden has been criticized by the Council of Europe’s expert group GRETA, which oversees the Council of Europe Convention on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, for failing to comply with the Convention on several points. It is clear that higher awareness and expertise is needed within the Swedish Migration Board and Swedish courts, says Rebecca Ahlstrand, lawyer at the Scandinavian Human Rights Lawyers.