A mother has told of how the Home Office could force her back into the clutches of sex traffickers.
Hope was just 10 years old when she was forced into a life of prostitution.
Following the death of her father, she and her sister were cruelly exploited by their mother’s new husband, who they soon learned was a sex trafficker.
For years the siblings were sex slaves, abused by groups of men in Zambia – where they grew up – and jetted across Africa for strangers to molest.
Several times they escaped, but each time gang members tracked them down and forced them to return to the life they were desperate to get away from.
Hope thought her ordeal had finally ended when she reached the UK after running away a final time.
But she now faces the terrifying prospect of being forced to return after her asylum claim was refused.
If she is made to go back, she believes she will be tracked down by the trafficking ring she escaped from.
Speaking from a Red Cross office in London, the 36-year-old, who has a 12-year-old daughter, told Mirror Online: “It’s better that they kill me here and take my dead body and the body of my daughter back to Zambia.
“I don’t want to go back. They are still looking for me.
“I feel safe here, I don’t feel like they can find me or do anything to me.
“I don’t know what will happen next.”
Hope – not her real name – said her application for asylum was refused because although she had been identified as a survivor of sexual exploitation, the Home Office said there were organisations that could support her in Zambia.
“It’s very real in Zambia, you don’t have rights,” she said.
“You can’t go to the police. If you run away to another country or another town they (the trafficking gang) will come and find you.”
Hope said she had previously fled to South Africa, Mosambique and Angola, and each time been tracked down.
She finds describing her ordeal deeply upsetting, but bravely opened up in the hope her story can help others.
“It was terrible,” she said. “My mother got married to another man, and that man took advantage of us.
“I was abused. His friends started taking advantage of us too, we were forced into prostitution across Africa.”
In spite of her harrowing case, Hope only has discretionary leave to remain in the UK until October 2021.
After that, she is fearful of the fate that could befall her and her daughter.
“They should be more sympathetic,” she said.
“They refused my asylum but I have been given leave to remain. I don’t know what will come next, it worries me.
“My daughter I haven’t told anything, I can’t be happy.”
“There are so many people who need help.”
Tragically, many survivors of sexual exploitation find themselves in Hope’s position.
In July, the British Red Cross, Hestia and Ashina published a report warning hundreds of traffic people face an “unreasonable” risk of being forced back into a life of abuse.
Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show 752 people recognised as survivors between 2015 and 2017 have no right to remain in the UK.
Non-EU and UK nationals have no automatic right to remain in the country, even after their plight is officially acknowledged.
This means many miss out on healthcare, accommodation and mental health support, the report concludes.
The charities’ research also highlighted the Home Office’s a policy of giving recognised trafficking survivors just 45 days of accommodation and financial support.
Rachel Mullan-Feroze, service manager at Ashiana said: “This report evidences the need for a flexible response to trafficking and modern slavery which takes into account individual needs and circumstances.
“It also highlights how immigration status underpins the ability for a survivor to resettle safely – without which, many survivors are at real risk of re-victimisation.
“Ashiana urge the government to reconsider their stance on granting leave to remain for confirmed victims of trafficking.”
A Home Office spokesman said they were unable to give a specific response to Hope’s case but added: “The Government is committed to stamping out the abhorrent crime of modern slavery and supporting victims to begin rebuilding their lives.
“We have already significantly increased support for victims earlier this year – including the length of time that an individual can receive support – and we will continue to drive improvements.
“We have introduced measures that mean victims can continue to receive support to help their recovery beyond the minimum 90 days, if they need it.”
The Home Office said it does not have a blanket policy of granting leave for sex trafficking survivors to remain risks encouraging people to make false claims.
Instead, it makes decisions on a case-by-case basis.