Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has been criticized and accused of “riding roughshod” after it transpired that a Vietnamese man who was forced to work on a cannabis farm in the UK will soon be deported back to Vietnam, the Independent newspaper reported today.
The modern slavery victim, Duc Kien Nguyen, has warned it’s unsafe for him to return home, as the trafficking gang which smuggled him to Britain are still at large.
Mr. Nguyen was released on bail in 2017 and volunteered at numerous charities in Glasgow. He was detained on June 4, ahead of his scheduled deportation on June 14.
The victim outlined his ordeal in an interview with the Independent, saying “When I realized it was illegal, in my mind I had a plan to escape but I couldn’t because they are gangsters and part of an underground group.”
“They would come in and open the door and then leave again. I had to wake up after midnight to turn on and off the lights and to water the cannabis. I often had to stay up overnight.”
He also expressed his fears of returning to Vietnam, warning that the trafficking gang may attempt to kill him.
“I feel very nervous. I don’t know what will happen to me in the future. I would be scared to go back because the gangsters will be out to get me. If I was to return I fear I will be killed.”
Yvette Cooper, who serves as the chair of the Labour Party’s Home Affairs Select Committee, warned that deporting victims of modern slavery strengthens trafficking gangs.
“This is the wrong approach. Sending vulnerable victims of trafficking back to the place they were trafficked from risks pushing them straight back into modern slavery. It also means that victims won’t come forward or ask for help for fear of being sent straight back again. Instead of tackling modern slavery, this risks strengthening the power of the traffickers,” she told the Independent.
Some activists have warned that Mr. Nguyen’s upcoming deportation is yet another example of the Home Office’s “hostile environment” and growing anti-immigrant stance.
Meanwhile, MP Vernon Coaker, who chairs the cross-party human trafficking and modern slavery parliamentary group described the policy as “totally and utterly unacceptable” and “outrageous.”
He also warned that Mr. Nguyen’s case and the UK government’s wider stance on immigration and modern slavery will discourage victims from coming forward in the future and could “undermine the government’s own strategy on cracking down on trafficking and modern slavery.”
“If the government is true to its rhetoric around supporting modern slavery victims, this would not be happening,” MP Coaker added.
After it emerged that then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd lied about the use of deportation targets, she was forced to resign from her post, and Sajid Javid was swiftly appointed to take over.