- Could you be at risk of sponsoring trafficked individuals?
In November 2019, The Telegraph stated “Private schools are making hundreds of thousands of pounds from Vietnamese children who are entering Britain on student visas then disappearing.” However, the schools involved were unaware of the fact that these sponsored students were actually trafficked: they had completed the correct compliance procedures and had unfortunately fallen victim to a new scam by Traffickers.
This information was obtained through an investigation by The Times, published on 4 November 2019. The report stated that “the students typically pay a term’s fees then go missing within weeks or months of starting at the school. Many disappear into the system and are left at risk of exploitation in nail bars, cannabis farms and brothels.”
The investigation uncovered that in the past four years, at least 21 children (all female) vanished from boarding schools and private colleges across Britain. All of these children were Vietnamese and were believed to have been brought to England by Traffickers, obtaining Tier 4 sponsorship, to allow the girls to enter the UK legally.
Historically, traffickers have looked to bring children in with forged documents on spouse visas. Some have therefore argued that the tightening of the Immigration Rules has resulted in traffickers becoming more ‘creative’.
- How can this be avoided?
Protecting a school’s sponsorship licence is of upmost importance. Schools will want to ensure that whomever they sponsor, they have reduced their risks as far as possible.
Before arriving in the UK
Most schools will work routinely with the same agents. Due diligence should be completed on any referrers, and particularly new agents. Liaise with other schools and ask for references from potential referrers and agents.
Similar scrutiny should be given to the families of the prospective student. Schools routinely check means and financial backgrounds. However, we suggest that family circumstances are also considered – is it likely that they can afford this long term? Do the parents work in positions that reflect the ambitions for their children?
Full information should be obtained for the living arrangements for the student. If they will not board, who will they reside with? What relationship do they have to the family? If this is a foster care arrangement, obtain references and further information.
After arriving in the UK
- Ensure attendance is as expected
- Meet with the students regularly and ensure they understand your expectations
- Meet with the foster carer when the student first arrives
- Ensure that suitable arrangements have been made for the students travel to and from the school
- Keep a comprehensive record of absences
Could you be at risk of sponsoring trafficked individuals?
The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.