In a rare victory, a young woman who was trafficked to London for sexual exploitation was awarded monetary compensation. As a survivor of modern slavery in the UK, it was Antonia's* legal right to receive the reparation, yet IJM Romania has found that the reality for too many survivors is that they are often left empty handed.
Antonia*, a 19-year-old Romanian woman who was trafficked to London for sexual exploitation, has just been awarded significant monetary compensation through the UK's Criminal Injuries Compensation Act.
IJM celebrates this momentous moment with Antonia, who had travelled to the UK under the false promise of factory work, but was forced into sex work upon arrival. After enduring extreme violence for eight months, she was able to notify her family in Romania and be removed from exploitation by the London Metropolitan Police. With the help of IJM Romania and partners Bahkita House and the Salvation Army, Antonia has now returned to her family in Romania.
This compensation is a critical milestone in her journey of securing justice, coming only a few months after the conviction of the last of her traffickers in October 2021. As a survivor of modern slavery in the UK, it was Antonia's legal right to receive the compensation, yet IJM Romania has found that the reality for too many survivors is that they are often left empty handed.
A critical gap that leaves survivors disenfranchised
Once a survivor returns back to their home country, IJM Romania has seen that there are rarely effective mechanisms in place to educate or support survivors to claim the compensation that they deserve. Survivors have three years, or often less, from the time of the incident to file their claim. By the time a survivor's court case concludes, many are already outside the statute of limitations and have lost their rights to redress. In other circumstances, survivors may not be aware that they can apply for compensation, and, even if they are aware, the process is too complex to navigate without assistance.
This is a critical gap in survivor care that our teams have identified and IJM Romania has started to advocate with police, prosecutors and others in the UK to ensure that victims are made aware of their rights before they are returned to their country of origin.
“We know there are thousands of victims who are sent home that are never made aware of their rights. They lose their right because they are never informed and there are no structures in place to help. This is a travesty and often functions as an additional, structural violence against some of the most marginalized and exploited people. This needs to end.” said Shawn Kohl, the Director for Eastern and Central Europe for IJM.
Compensation that's meeting Antonia's critical need
Back at home, Antonia lives with her family who rely on her for support. It was the reason she had travelled to the UK for work in the first place. She has recently lost her job, so this financial award is meeting a critical need and will help her to take the steps she needs to find new employment.
IJM Romania will continue to support and stand alongside her as she rebuilds her life.
*a pseudonym. Stock image. Not a survivor of trafficking.