Lecture Explores Complexities of Human Trafficking in West Africa


– Good evening everyone. Thank you so much for coming here. Welcome to our students
and friends and colleague and welcome to the students
from Doho Institute. It is my absolute honor to introduce Professor Benjamin Lawrance. His bio is written in the first person and I am tempted to read it as I. – No, don’t do that. (laughs) – I wish this was my bio. Okay, Professor Lawrance earned
his Ph.D. and his masters from Stanford University in history and his B.A. and M.A. from U.C.L., University College London. He’s a legal historian who’s worked for cases on Africa, West African
migrants around the globe. His research explores mobility, labor, and exploitation through time and space. He has written about historical
and contemporary slavery, human trafficking,
cuisine and globalization, human rights, refugee
issues, and asylum policies. He is the Editor-In-Chief of
the African Studies Review, the principal journal of the
African Studies Association. He’s the author of multiple
books and articles. I will just choose some of them. His first one, a monograph,
Locality, Mobility, and Nation, from Rochester, examine the experiences
of we men and women under French mandate rule in Togo. And did it appear yet in French? – No. – Okay, but it’s going to. It’s supposed to appear in French. His second book, Amistad’s Orphans from Yale University Press,
examined West African child smuggling in the 19th century, reconstructing a familiar
story, namely the 1840, 41, Amistad Supreme Court
case, though the lens of children’s experiences of enslavement. Among his other recent
works, those examining forced marriage, asylum, refugee issues. He also provided expert testimony in different trafficking
and asylum seeking cases where he chronicled some
of these experiences in wide-ranging essays including
African Economic History, The Journal Of African History, Biography, Slavery and Abolition,
Anthropology Quarterly, Canadian African Studies, and The African Studies Review among others. He also co-chaired the
59th annual meeting of the African Studies
Association in Washington, D.C. last year, the year
before last year, 2016, with the theme Imagining
Africa The Center, Bridging Scholarship
Policy and Representation In African Studies. For those of us who attend
ASA, we know what a big deal that is. So, congratulations, Professor Lawrance. Professor Lawrance also is a consultant on contemporary political,
social, and cultural issues in various countries in western Africa and as of 2017, he served
as an expert witness for over 380 petitions
by West Africa’s migrants in the U.S., Canada, and
the U.K., the Netherlands, Israel, and many other countries and his opinions have been featured in the U.S. Department of State,
the Japanese Agency, – Yeah. – UNHCR, The World Bank,
The Austrian Red Cross Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, and the U.S. Department
of Homeland Security. This, as we know, has been
central in some of the work that Professor Benjamin is
doing in these different for… I think it’s just very
important for asylum seekers to have an advocate and
best expert testimonies on their behalf. He’s currently professor of Anthropology at University of Arizona in Tucson and his work had been sponsored, funded, by the American Counsel of Learned Societies, The National Endowment of Humanities, and fellowships at the Stanford,
Yale, Harvard University and he’s currently on
a doctorate fellowship at our sister Jesuit
University of Notre Dame, the Prague Institute of Peace. Please, you can visit
University of Arizona website, history department, to learn more about African Studies Review
and the link to that, upcoming events, upcoming
talks, and tours by Professor Benjamin Lawrance. Please join me in
welcoming him and also in supporting him as he came
today and was in a car accident on his way to SFSQ. So, he is such a good
sport to stick around and with such poise and grace. (applause) – Hi. I thank you very much for that
very generous introduction. I’m gonna sit down on a stool, not because I’m gravely injured. I only have a bit of whiplash. The car on the other
hand didn’t fair so well. It’s a great pleasure to be here. Thank you very much. It’s the first time I’ve ever given a talk where there was a safety
demonstration before hand. I was waiting for the oxygen
masks to fall out of the ceiling but that didn’t happen. I appreciate that you introduced me by talking about asylum because that’s what I wanna talk about today. So, what I’m gonna talk
about is based on a current research project,
current book project. This is kind of an article
version of one chapter that is underway. And it’s based on
research that I have done and when I say that I mean
that a little bit differently to the way some of us do research and the way that I’ve
done research in the past. It’s research with the people
who via their attorneys or their lawyers or their solicitors, contact me to be an expert
for their asylum cases. So this is a very self-selecting
group of individuals who have very complex conditions that have given rise to their refugee seeking in different countries and so, without any further introduction, I think I’ll move into the talk. And I like to sit on a stool
so that I don’t wander around and lose the mic and get distracted. It keeps me a little bit more focused. I also get to see people more carefully and pay attention to my slides. But, if you have questions,
if I could ask you just to hold onto them ’til the end. I’m happy to take questions at the end. So, let’s begin with the story, the story of the Slave Next Door. So, in October 2016, very recently, a woman known only as AE escaped from domestic slavery in suburban Houston. And her enslavers, Trudy
and Sandra Nsobundu, a Nigerian-American
couple with five children who owned a healthcare business, had brought her into the United States under false pretenses, two years earlier. According to court
documents, AE was made work seven days a week from 5:30
a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day. She could not take breaks,
sit down, or watch TV. She could not use the
telephone, see a doctor for her poorly healing arm. She couldn’t attend church regularly or walk beyond the immediate neighborhood with the children that
she was custodian of. She was forced to sleep on
the floor in the children’s bedroom in the space between their beds. If she wanted milk for her
tea, it had to be drained from the children’s cereal bowls. The defendants also
subjected her to physical and emotional abuse. They called her idiot and
slapped her and hit her on the necks and arm on a weekly basis until the situation came to the attention of federal investigators with the help of a concerned neighbor. In The Slave Next Door,
Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter expose the disturbing
phenomena of human trafficking and slavery in the United States. They identify, hidden
in plain sight, slaves such as dishwashers in
neighborhood restaurants, street hockers selling
trinkets, and janitors cleaning department
stores, locked in at night. And they celebrate their
rescue, their liberation, and their reintegration into U.S. society. I think there are three
points worth noting from their analysis with respect
to today’s brief presentation. First, according to the data
collected by Bales and others, the second highest number of
trafficking victims in the U.S. are enslaved domestic workers. Second, frequently, women
become slaves through legal channels such as arriving
on legitimate work visas only to find bondage under
the slave holder’s roof. And third, Bales and Soodalter
contend that there are no large scale domestic slavery rings. It is not the type of
offense that lends itself to crime syndicates. Instead, they contend
trafficked people are sold one or two a time through
mom and pop operations requiring only an outside
consumer who is complicit. Now, I have some bones to
pick with this last argument, this last contention. But, perhaps we can
return to that in Q and A. So, among the key tensions
in their analysis identified was the fact that most
U.S. American audiences didn’t recognize the existence of slavery. And they assumed that it had
ended with the Civil War. And even when presented with evidence, they disputed the notion
that particular individuals were indeed slaves. Isolated stories however
shock audiences in the global north into reckoning with the legacy of an ongoing
prevalence of coercion in domestic service and in its worst form, urban slavery. In the 2016 story, The Nsobundus, both now serving jail time for slavery, is illustrative. For two years, the couple held AE captive, ostensibly as a maid or
a nanny in their home. U.S. immigration laws and regulations require that citizens of
certain foreign countries who seek admission to
the U.S. obtain a visa prior to entry so the
couple knowingly provided a false visa application to the victim to be submitted with numerous
other pieces of false information. After obtaining the woman’s
visa, the couple paid to transport the nanny,
quote unquote, to the U.S. Once here, Sandra Nsobundu
took the victim’s passport and copies of her bank
statement and the couple hid the woman’s passport
and visa with the intent to violate the forced labor statute. They admitted this was in
fact an effort to maintain her labor services. Throughout her enslavement by the couple, AE was not permitted to have
her passport or her visa and they made her believe that failure to perform the labor and
services would result in serious harm to her. The couple admitted that
they indeed threatened harm to AE if she did not cook, clean, and tend to their children. AE told the investigators
that she was forced to sleep on the floor, bathe in cold water, eat leftovers, and work
nearly 20 hour shifts seven days a week from
September 2013 until October 2015. Trudy Nsobundu pled guilty to visa fraud. He stated that he falsely
claimed the woman was married and that she was his sister and that she was 20 years
older than she really was and that she’d be traveling to the U.S. for her niece’s graduation. The Nsobundus covered her expenses to Houston but as soon
as she stepped into their vehicle on September 29, 2013, Sandra Nsobundu ceased control
of the woman’s passport and other personal belongings. AE ultimately broke free. She self-liberated in October 2015, sometime after she learned
that she hadn’t been paid since arriving in the U.S. The Nsobundus had assured her that they’d deposit money in a Nigerian bank account. Two weeks before her escape she called, that is AE herself, called
the National Human Trafficking Resource Center to report a potential domestic servitude
situation in Katy, Texas, according to the court papers. A case manager with the YMCA International Trafficked Person’s Assistance Program then helped AE flee from
the Nsobundus’ home. AE escaped her predicament
because a tip of her own, her own tip, to the
National Human Trafficking Resource Center in October 2015, thus sent the government’s
case into motion. And after she was rescued
and her identify protected, she became a witness for the prosecution. From the court ordered settlement, she would receive about
$120,000 in wages owed. In fact, that was just
adjudicated last week. Of course, the Nsobundus are bankrupt so she’ll probably never see a penny. What has now got to be emphasized according to then Assistant U.S. Attorney, Ruben Perez, what has got to be emphasized is we’re here not only to punish people but to rescue the victims. Ruben Perez heads the
Human Trafficking Unit for the Southern District of Texas. Now, it’s unclear if by
cooperating with the prosecution, AE will be able to access a
Victim of Trafficking Visa which guarantees protection
or permanent withholding of removal to Nigeria. But this story illustrates
the two paths of resistance that are today imagined
by most humanitarians and anti-trafficking campaigners
for contemporary slaves in this neo-liberal age. That is, statutory protection,
laws against slavery, and immigration protection. A pathway through a
regularization process of a visa. And it shows how these two are in fact deeply interwoven. So, contemporary West African
urban enslavement stories parallel many of the insights
of Bales and Soodalter but lesser legal and
sociostructural support for rescue and recovery gives
rise to innovative strategies. Anderson and O’Connell
Davidson who observed that West African trafficking is not
simply a new form of slavery but rather a complex multivalent
and multisighted process. And Fernandez and O’Connell
Davidson have discerned exit strategies to be tightly controlled. So in previous work I have demonstrated how some urban slaves subject themselves to smuggling networks and they subordinate
themselves to traffickers to seek asylum beyond the subregion. The majority of trafficking victims employ a combination of personal, legal, and economic, and social strategies to terminate or to
renegotiate the relationships of coercion. Today, I’d like to briefly
narrate the experiences of three other Nigerian
trafficking survivors and use their experiences
to compare how these two strategies of contemporary
urban slave resistance, namely immigration
protection in the form of asylum seeking abroad, and
domestic legal recourse at home through the laws, the statutes that exist, to better understand the lived experience of urban slaves in Nigeria. So asylum testimonies
and published accounts of domestic trafficking prosecutions from several West African countries provide rich details
of physical, emotional, and sexual exploitation
shedding light on the underbelly of the globalized
economy in sprawling African urban conglomerations like Lagos, Abuja, and Kano, but with
relevance for far beyond, even here in the middle
east and in the gulf region. Via these stories I
hope to show that partly because of increasing globalized
transnational economies the modalities of slavery
have changed dramatically in West Africa. But the actual tools and
resources trafficking individuals have to draw upon to liberate themselves have changed little in the
past hundred or more years since the first court ordered liberations in colonial Africa. The persistence of unfreedom in the contemporary epoch is a cause of much consternation on the
part of government agencies, anti-slavery activists, and
neo-liberal economic theorists. How to characterize contemporary
forms of exploitation against historical patents
of slavery and slave trading is among the more vexing issues. While the Palermo Protocol
provides a current definition of trafficking, it seems
far to uncritical to view trafficking simply as
a new form of slavery. It is a complex, unstable, multivalent and multisighted process. Slavery, trafficking, and coerced labor are all subsets of unfree labor and these types of unfreedom reside on a dynamic continuum of exploitation. Just as the states capacity
to authorize or deny entrance to a national territory has been shown to produce illegal immigration, so too the conflation of (mic cuts out and speaker cannot be heard) with migration and refugee protection, produces new forms of unfreedom by classifying trafficking subjecthood with such terms as
historic, live, or ongoing. And I can point you to some
citations about those issues if you like. As our account in these three experiences, I’d like you to pay attention to both the circumstances of the urban enslavement and the path to liberty,
both real and imagined. Each of these cases concerns a real woman who has since won protection
and earned the right to live in the U.K. These are also cases for
which I personally served as an expert witness and
provided a written report which was a determining factor in their respective claims for protection. And they have subsequently
granted me permission to speak with them and then discuss their experiences with others. I interpret the asylum
seeking by these three Nigerian trafficking survivors
as an infrapolitical strategy whereby applicants
instantiate an incomplete liberated subjecthood in
order to move further along the unfreedom continuum. So it’s obvious to me but
perhaps may not be to you that asylum seekers we
are talking about today have already escaped their
traffickers, alright. They’ve left the houses
when they then filed for protection. They are no longer held in bondage when they’re asking for protection against being trafficked. They live, they work, they
shop, they are already rebuilding their lives through psychosocial counseling, and with the help of
psychotropic medication. But they view themselves
as remaining unfree until they successfully resist attempts to remove them back into the
context from wince arose their subjugation either
by their traffickers or by the British government
and the immigration authorities. So trafficking victims
move nimbly between what James Scott calls overt
collective defiance and complete hegemonic
compliance to dismantle their unfree and trafficked status. The challenges these women’s
stories offer to their trafficking context are
authoritative and provocative but they must also be
viewed in the context of deeply uneven power
relations often accompanied by threats of deportation,
incarceration, and violence. They engage availed
discourse of dignity and self-assertion in a
public setting, a court, which unfortunately to us
disguise, mutes, and cloaks ideological arguments. And the stories you’ll hear today are just several of many strategies
that have evolved in the highly mobile
transnational world of asylum seeking and
global human trafficking. So TO was born in Lagos in Nigeria in 1979 and is Yaruba. As a child, she was raised
by her material grandparents in Benin City. Her grandfather was a very well known traditional healer. Her grandparents were
members of secret societies. When she was 16 she injured her leg. She was taken to a shrine and held there while her leg healed. The traditional healer
was contracted into a marriage with her against
her will by her grandparents. The healer raped her multiple times and once her leg had healed she escaped and took a bus to Lagos. From Lagos, her mother
and uncle helped her to Abidjan. In Abidjan she stayed with a woman who owned a canteen. She slept on the floor with other girls. And there she met a man called John who offered to take her to Spain for work. John arranged a passport and they traveled from the Ivory Coast to Morocco. In Rabat, they attempted to enter Spain by an underground tunnel. The first two times,
that is the part of Spain that’s in North Africa, right? There’s no tunnel across
the Mediterranean. The first two times they were intercepted. The third time they succeeded
in entering Ceuta, Spain and in this refugee
camp they were processed and then given documents. They were then relocated to Madrid and in Madrid they met a woman. TO was made to shave off all her hair and cut her nails and
the remnants were then collected by this woman to
create a juju to control her. After this, they went
to a hotel and she was forced into prostitution. And she was informed that she had to work to repay a debt of 60,000 U.S. dollars that the woman claimed
she had thus incurred. She tried multiple times to
regularize her status in Spain. She met a Nigerian and they married. And she was then trafficked to France to work as a prostitute again. She tried to leave but she
was told she still owed $20,000. The woman threatened her with juju and TO believes it worked because
she had multiple miscarriages. So around 2006 after
surgery from the hospital, she absconded again and
changed her phone number and based on her marriage
to a Spanish resident, she was allowed to remain in Spain. She then applied for a visa
to the U.K. for her daughter who was born in 2011. She relocated to the U.K.
and she sought asylum and refugee protection because she feared reprisal actions including
the juju from her traffickers and from the woman who forced her into prostitution. So AO, this is the second story. AO was born in Jaba and is
of Yoruba and Hausa ethnicity and of a Christian-Muslim household. She completed secondary
school and nursing study and she became pregnant at
the age of 20 and married. At some point she was
contacted by a woman called Mama G, a recruitment agent. Her husband was supportive
of her desires to work as a nurse and allowed
her to discuss the issue with Mama G because he was concerned for their safety in northern Nigeria. Her husband met Mama G
in Lagos and there they paid for a contract. So AO met with Mama G to
enact an oath or a covenant prior to her travels. So in the interview she
recounted a physical oath, including language, and
a ritual performance and the consumption of solids and liquids. AO expressed the view that
there was in the package that she consumed, human body parts. Incisions were made on
her body in black powder and was mixed with blood
and rubbed onto her skin but AO was reluctant to
divulge too many details because she explained
it is a secret that must stay in my mouth. Once the covenant was
completed with Mama G, AO was surprised to learn that she was traveling by boat to the U.K. When she confronted
Mama G, she was beaten. Mama G controlled her and
had all her documents. She traveled with 10 girls and women and they were all made
to change their names. One girl died on the voyage and had body thrown over the ship, a ship that began in Lagos,
went via Abidjan on land and then by sea to the
Tilbury Docks in London, and then by cab to the building
where she found herself. So in London, AO explains
that she and the others were met by receivers. Mama G knew lots of people on the docks. She was in the brothel run by Mama G and then she was punished for
resisting the prostitution to which she was subjected. She was kept in one of
several numbered rooms and forced to work as a prostitute. She was kept prisoner
and forced to work for five years, sleeping with
eight to ten men a day on average. The day she escaped was
different to other days because she felt cold air and then she saw the door was open and there
was no one at the door for the first time. And then she saw a security
guard standing outside but he just let her walk straight on by. So AO explained that
her family living in Jos had been killed in 2008,
2009 and she only learned of this after arriving in the U.K. She feared reprisal actions
from her traffickers and the woman who forced
her into prostitution and she also feared being
punished for prostitution by other Nigerians. And so she sought refugee
status in the U.K. So the final story is RD. RD was born in Ikwerre, in a
delta part of Nigeria in 1964. And she’s married and she
has a number of children and a formal education to
the level of high school. She worked in a market
for some time before she was asked by the E family
to work as an office assistant for their publishing company which had offices in Lagos and Abuja. She worked as an office
assistant delivering and buying things but
she also worked as an office domestic worker,
cleaning and so forth. Although, it was not part
of her job description. And then she was brought
to the U.K. by Mr. E. in 2008 as a visitor for five months in the capacity as a
housekeeper or domestic servant. Mr. E. and his people organized
the traveling documents for RD without her knowledge or assistance and at some point, RD
was the head of all the office assistants and
she was asked by E’s wife to come to London and to work there. So a domestic visa was
obtained on her behalf and she was to be paid 250 pounds a month. In the U.K. however, she
was only paid 50 pounds a month and the rest was
held back until later. She worked from 4:30 a.m.
every day and would stay often awake until midnight. She never legally received
her back wages owed to her, although this is an
ongoing matter of dispute. And soon after moving into the house in Redding, E raped her. She immediately told her
husband back in Nigeria what had happened and
other friends and planned to leave but the E
family had her passport. In August 2010, she considered
going to the police station. She initially began
walking but hesitated and turned back. She managed to contact a niece for advice and after yet another incident,
she contacted her niece who cautioned her to flee to the police where she sought protection. The police then arrested Mrs.
E. and regained RD’s passport. So these three women’s paths
to immigration regularization in the U.K. are
illustrative of a particular and perverse contradiction
in the current state of global anti-trafficking practice. Namely, what appears
to be the potential for an interminable form of enslavement from contemporary asylum
policy and migration securitization. In liberating themselves from servitude and applying for asylum
protection in the U.K., and against future enslavement, each individual risked
being returned to the very conditions that gave rise to their multiple and different forms of bondage. So to attain refugee protection, and to gain security from being returned to their original enslavement context, they had to perform the
status of a present day live and ongoing trafficking victim in order to convince the
U.K. Immigration Enforcement Agency, their own capacity
to liberate themselves was in fact incomplete
and indeed unattainable if it was uncoupled from
the public transcript of a decision emanating from a court. So just to be clear, what I’m saying here is that in order to
demonstrate and to secure their freedom, they had to show that detached from a court judgment affirming their status as a slave they could never be free. So essentially to be liberated, they had to confess
publicly to the failure of their own act of
self-liberation that was at that very time underway as they presented themselves
before an immigration court. Is the paradox, the
conundrum becoming clear? So this seemingly paradoxical situation is only part of an even
more complex picture. So to prevail before an immigration judge, a trafficking victim’s performance of classic courtroom conventions
such as good speech, narrative rationality, embodied affect, that’s really sufficient. Instead, a documentary
corpus colloquially known as a bundle in the United Kingdom, consisting of various
reports such as the report that I submitted, must
accompany the asylum applicant on their path towards a determination. So all three women were
represented by a barrister, right, a senior lawyer, who argued that the accompanying
bundle of documentation proved the experience
of enslavement was real and live, ongoing. What we know of these
three cases is that their barristers were successful. The respective judges agreed and concluded that each woman’s context of vulnerability and the conditions of
exploitation had indeed been used to affect the respective acts of trafficking of the individual. So they accepted the argument. So the judges each individually
sustained the argument of the barrister supported
by my expert testimony that there was an
insufficiency of protection by the Nigerian authorities
and that the risk of retrafficking, of being
retrafficked along the paths that they had previously come, was real and serious. So each woman needed voluminous
and detailed documents, what elsewhere I call unfreedom papers. For without them, their claim would likely have come to naught. So what I call unfreedom
papers, these bundles of documentation that
consist of diverse records detailing the persistence of coercion and the failures of
neo-abolitionst legislation, that is new anti-trafficking
laws that exist in Nigeria, in the U.K., here in Qatar, and in most countries in the world, what I’ve called unfreedom
papers have become indispensable to asylum
claims submitted by survivors of a complex dimension
of contemporary slavery routinely described as human trafficking. Nowadays, in the absence
of corroborating testimony, the person who is trafficked with them, trafficking survivors
struggle to prove their status and to gain access to refugee protection, not to attain their freedom. Walking out the door,
well, it took a few years but she was able to do it. RD could walk out that door. She was free. But she wasn’t protected against reenslavement without a court context. So survivors of trafficking networks seeking to exit the seemingly interminable conditions of trafficking subjectivity must produce these bundles
or these unfreedom papers detailing the extent of
slavery in trafficking and the likely failure
of the neo-abolitionst legislative anti-trafficking
paradigm to protect them were they returned to Nigeria or to another country. As I have told you that
all three of these women gained protection and are
now rebuilding their lives. I want to now turn to a brief discussion of how to read and theorize these stories and how to analyze the
textuality of the asylum story of which they’re part and the asylum process of
which they’re embedded. So this is necessarily
thin and a brief discussion in the interest of time and it’s part of a larger book project that
I’ve been working on. I don’t know when that’s gonna finish. We’ll see. But Rose Byrne has explained that refugee law draws on
criminal law and civil law and it’s not simply human rights practice or international humanitarian law and thus problems like
the one I’ve described are preponderant. People talk about refugee law but there isn’t really a
thing that is recognized as refugee law. The measurement of
consistency and plausibility of a refugee narrative can
never be an exact science. And how much of one or the
other depends on many factors according to James Sweeney. And according to John
Zeleznicov, refugee status determination operates
within a discretionary legal domain. What James Hathaway calls
the fundamentally subjective caprice which unfolds
in policy and procedure attendant to highly malleable
conceptual standards and practices. Many of themselves have
which are subject to legal challenges, judicial
review, and international mandates, and public criticism. Alright, so refugee
decision making is policy. It’s very rarely part of a legal process. Michael Kagen discerns
the central elements of credibility in a narrative of a refugee as between positive and negative factors. And they’re accorded probative weight in a decision making process. So the positive factors for a refugee are detail, specificity, consistency, furnishing all the details
early on in the proceedings and general plausibility. The negative factors are vagueness, contradiction, delayed
revelation of all the details and facts, and general implausibility. These powerful probative
criteria, however, may not be divorced
from the multiplicity of production contexts. And as Rose Byrne observes, asylum seekers have to deliver their testimony credibly and they must be found
credible in multiple contexts over and over again. And so I put to you the
people whose stories sound the same over and over
again, the people who rehearse their stories,
people who rehearse are actors. Stories that are incredibly
consistent time and time again are much more likely to
be the ones that are false and psychologists demonstrate
that traumatized individuals such as women who are raped
or subjected to trafficking are much more likely to
have inconsistent stories when they tell it to one
person of to another person. They might tell a woman
that they’ve been raped and they might tell a male investigator that they haven’t. But that inconsistency is
used by refugee determiners, refugee deciders as a
measure of inconsistency and thus a factor in their incredibility. So credibility assessments
speak to a general tension embodied in asylum seekers. In so far as they are
thrust between the imagined and the idealized legal protections and national realities
and the arbitrariness of domestic immigration control. Jenny Millbank has argued that credibility draws attention to the
intensely narrative mode of refugee status determinations
adjudicatory power and the central importance
of communication. On the one hand, the
decision maker recognizes that genuine claimants
fulfill the humanitarian objectives of the fundamental
human rights goals of the refugee convention, right. So people who are making
refugee decisions, they want to grant protection to ones that sound real and legitimate
but on the other hand, the same decision makers,
they recognize that nongenuine applicants are part of ordinary immigration control. Their duty is to find those
people, zero in on them and call them from the pack. So while those unfamiliar
with expert testimony may cast a suspicious eye
at the use of, for example, newspaper articles such
as a Time Magazine article or the CNN website, cited
as evidence, my analysis here is informed by extensive
interactions with the U.K. home office and
my experience reviewing more than a hundred reasons
for refusal letters. Those are the negative letters
that the decision makers send as to why you have not
been granted protection. Adjudicators are not
required to accord weight to different types of
evidence based on their value. They don’t have to seek
country condition information that supports a counter position. The U.K. home office
provides little guidance about using country of
origin research information, such as for example NAPTIP,
the Nigerian Anti-trafficking Agency’s annual reports or the court cases that its worked on. And they generally only
require that a narrative be evaluated against
evidence that they call in the round, that’s the
U.K. legal formulation. We have considered all
the evidence in the round and we have found your
case to be uncompelling and lacking in credibility. So, I think I must have
lost the slides somehow. So the 2015 iteration of the
U.K. Asylum Policy Instruction reads and I’m quoting, “The question to be asked is whether taken “in the round, the case
worker accepts what he or she “has been told and the
other evidence provided. “In practice if the
claimant provides evidence “that when it is considered in the round “indicates that the fact
is reasonably likely, “it can be accepted. “A case worker does
not need to be certain, “convinced, or even satisfied
of the truth of the account. “That sets too high a standard of proof. “It is enough that it can be accepted. “Weighting evidence for relevance and bias “let alone scientific and scholarly merit “is beyond the remit of
the U.K. Home Office.” So as you can hear from that definition, in the round is defined
as being in the round. What a great definition. It’s kind of like high
school level writing. But I didn’t say that in my report. So I’d now like to turn
briefly to the women’s stories and to talk about how the U.K. Home Office looked at these issues. So for TO, so the National
Referral Mechanism, which is a body in the
U.K. and in other countries that looks at trafficking
cases particularly, they concluded that TO was
indeed a victim of human trafficking. The U.K. Home Office accepted
that she was a member of a particular social group. That’s a requirement
for refugee protection. Namely, a woman, victim
of human trafficking, from Nigeria, in Spain,
and they accepted that she was trafficked for the purpose
of sexual exploitation. But they rejected the cultic aspect that she described in her story. And thus they dismissed the entire claim. In the case of AO, the
first U.K. investigators, they made a positive
decision about her narrative. The National Trafficking
Referral Mechanism however, concluded that AO was not a
victim of human trafficking largely because it
believed she was not who they said she was but rather
another person entirely and had applied for multiple
visas with different names. This is a classic Home Office process. Well, everything you say
is true but you’re not who you say you are so
we’re rejecting your story. And in the third case of RD, the first responder
found that RD’s narrative was consistent with other victims and the National Crime Agency’s National
Referral Mechanism again concluded that there
were reasonable grounds, that RD was a victim of human trafficking, notice, was. But the conclusive grounds
while affirming this decision, then the U.K. Home Office
decided to not give her the benefit of the doubt
because she had waited several years to report the rape as a component of her trafficking incident and that she had walked out the door and there was thus no longer a victim, she was no longer a
slave, she was no longer a trafficked person. She was a historically trafficked person. So in all three cases, the U.K. did not accept
it was genuine fear about being returned to Nigeria. They sought to return them to Nigeria because it held that there
was sufficient protection from organizations like
this, NAPTIP, in Nigeria, including the Nigerian Police Force. And in my report which I wrote that the Nigerian Police are
indeed quite corrupt and can be bribed and I detailed examples and I detailed how women can’t
very easily go to the police if they’ve been raped
because they’re likely to be returned to their
families and all sorts of other sort of hypothetical
scenarios of what might happen if a trafficking victim is returned. The U.K. Home Office
insisted that the Nigerian authorities were willing
and able to offer a sufficiency of protection. They turned to the United
States Trafficking and Persons Reports to find examples
of trafficked people who had been rescued. So in my report I talked about the volume. Yes, 200 people were rescued in 2015 but 10,000 people were trafficked. So you tell me what the likelihood is that one person sent back
is going to get protection. 0.012%. So I sort of explained it in this sort of numerical quantitative way. Fortunately, for each of the three women we’re talking about, an immigration judge was convinced by my report and by other materials submitted
by the barristers and they set aside the
decision of the Home Office. So trafficking survivors,
that’s the statute. Statutes that are often used as examples of why there is a law. There is a law in the country. You need to first go to the police. Use the law. And then when you’ve done that, if then you’re trafficked again, then you come back to us and tell us after you’ve escaped a second time, that the law isn’t working. So trafficking survivors
who relocate voluntarily or forcibly to Europe or North America and submit asylum, refugee, or
humanitarian protection claims, are subject to intense scrutiny. As refugee narratives may
provide access to legal and political membership
in a host country, juridical and immigration authorities view misrepresentation
or lying very seriously. April Schumack observes
that the scrutinizing of testimonies makes narratives
the sites of surveillance and the policing of national boundaries. And Jack Derrida
highlighted how confirmation of the veracity of the claimant’s story can never be achieved
through expert testimony which is in fact
testimony about testimony. When he observed that
there is no testimony which does not structurally
imply in itself the possibility of fiction,
simulacra, dissimilation, lie, and perjury. But today we’re not here to judge whether these women’s
stories are true, real, or fraudulent. Globally, only a tiny
percentage of trafficking survivors gain access
to useful documentation, to expertise and to
interpretive assistance, right, an interpreter in the court
helping them tell their story and making their case before a judge. And a tiny fraction of trafficking victims attain justice for the horrific crimes committed against their person. Only 16% of migrants held in U.S. civil detention facilities, the United States doesn’t imprison migrants, right? They’re in detention facilities. They’re not in prisons. They’re wearing orange jump suits. They’re in the same cell as prisoners. But they’re not prisoners, they’re detainees. And they have legal rights. I’m sorry, I’m sorry. The slides were reordered, somehow. That was from earlier on. So in the United States,
only 16% of migrants are held in U.S. civil
detention facilities. I’m sorry, only 16% of
those held in facilities have access to legal representation, to someone to represent them. An essential first step
to then securing an expert and securing an interpreter, right? So the stages alone,
just to get to someone who can help translate their story. In the U.K. which proportionally detains more asylum seekers than
all European Union countries combined and for longer periods. Some of the cases I’ve
worked on, they’ve been in detention for two, three, four years. And they go crazy, right? Often I start a case and three years later I’m reading two psychological
and psychiatric evaluations of the same person because after three years
in solitary confinement they’ve gone crazy. In the U.K., migrants
have even fewer rights and protections than citizen offenders. So a person who’s charged with
a criminal act in the U.K. has more rights than a person
who is an asylum seeker fleeing brutality, torture,
rape, forced marriage, or trafficking. So without an asylum petition, without a successful asylum petition granting refugee status or
other humanitarian protection, trafficking survivors may
reside in an interminable unfreedom. In the words of Julia O’Connell Davidson, “Denied the core elements
of the bundle of rights and “freedoms that make flesh
and blood human beings “into persons in contemporary society.” So if I’ve inspired any of
you to consider a career in immigration representation or asylum and humanitarian justice,
then today’s talk will have been a success. And I wanna conclude by
drawing your attention to something that I came across just today, these documents. Now how many of you have
been to the slavery museum here in Qatar? Half of you maybe? I think it’s the best slavery
museum I’ve ever seen. I know it’s not called that. It’s called the Msheireb Museum and it’s the Ben Jelmood House, not the slavery museum but let’s just call it that for shorthand. It’s a remarkable museum
and here are two documents from Qatari slaves who if you
wanna come up and read them you can see they fled
on the boat, on a dow, to Behan and they went
to the British consul and they petitioned for protection against their enslavers and were granted
emancipation certificates by the British Consul
in Behan in the 1940s. So this is not a story just about Nigeria. This is not a story about
the U.K. or the U.S. with which I began. This is a global story. It’s happening everywhere. It’s happening here today. It’s happening as we know from the story that’s been in the news of
the murdered Pilipino maid in one of your neighboring kingdoms. It’s a story that happens daily and the more we can learn
about it the more we can find ways to combat it. Thank you. (audience applause)

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