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The bishops' spokesman on migration issues has said government policies are leaving victims of trafficking vulnerable to abuse ahead of a major conference on the topic at the Vatican next week.
Bishop Patrick Lynch, an auxiliary of Southwark and chairman of the Office for Migration Policy at the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, joined anti-slavery charities in urging the Government to extend the 45-day period of support it currently offers trafficked people.
During those 45 days a victim of trafficking cannot be removed from the UK and is given shelter, counselling, medical and legal help. Charities have said that the support available to victims after this time is inadequate.
“There should be more flexibility in the 45-day reflection period, especially for the most vulnerable cases who will be at high risk if returned to their home country or left completely to their own devices in the UK,” Bishop Lynch said.
He also spoke out against the current visa system, which requires migrant domestic workers to stay with one employer or face deportation. Some workers who come into the country in this way do so at the hands of human traffickers.
“While this was not the intention of the Government, it does leave domestic workers in a very vulnerable situation - open to abuse and slavery,” he told The Tablet.
A major international conference on human trafficking, which will focus on cooperation between police and the Church, is due to be hosted by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, at the Vatican next week.
A spokesman for the bishops’ conference said that the Vatican gathering would use the UK as an example of good practice.
“The UK is a focus in so far as the collaboration between police and Church in London will be showcased as an initiative that can be copied and adapted around the world. From listening to the voice of the victims, the aim of the conference is to bring police chiefs from around the world together so they can build a network to combat trafficking and work collaboratively with the Church, always treating trafficked people as victims rather than offenders,” he said.