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Asylum claim by confirmed human trafficking victim “clearly unfounded”

Asylum claim by confirmed human trafficking victim “clearly unfounded”

TT (Vietnam) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2019] EWCA Civ 248 is a human trafficking appeal. The Home Office accepted that TT was a victim of trafficking but nonetheless sought to deport him.

Lord Justice Davis held that it is possible for the Secretary of State to certify a Vietnamese asylum claim as clearly unfounded even if he accepts that the person was trafficked, but he must give very good reasons. The judgment refers to a “very lengthy and careful decision letter extending over 107 paragraphs and 15 pages”.

The Court of Appeal also reminds us that the Secretary of State must show that there are “very exceptional circumstances” to justify detention of a trafficking victim after a positive conclusive grounds decision (that the person is definitely a victim). In this case, TT should have had such a decision by mid-August 2015, so his detention for about a month after that had to meet this high test.

The High Court had found that an assault by TT on other detainees — perhaps it is no coincidence that this occurred on the very day he was due a decision on his trafficking claim — constituted “very exceptional circumstances”. Davis LJ plainly leaned to the same view. The problem for the Home Office was that very little evidence about what exactly happened during the “assault incident” was recorded in the detention review paperwork or put before the court. The burden of proof being on the Secretary of State, the court held that there were no “very exceptional circumstances” — or at any rate, none proven. TT was awarded full rather than nominal damages, amount TBD.

Conor James McKinney

CJ is Free Movement's deputy editor.

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