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Human trafficking

Our pro bono practice has had a focus on anti-human trafficking work since 2009

Our approach – as in other areas – is to combine frontline casework in discrete areas of law, with work that has an impact on a broader, systemic level.

An essential foundation for our work is our strong relationships with expert frontline legal services organisations, such as the Anti-Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit (ATLEU) in the UK and Sanctuary for Families in the US.

Here are some examples of our recent work.

In the US and UK we have acted for individual survivors of trafficking in compensation claims against those who have exploited them. We have also represented survivors in enforcement proceedings in the UK where survivors have been successful in securing an order for compensation, but where that compensation has not been forthcoming. We have advised on compensation claims to the UK Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, and represented survivors in appeals relating to these claims. 

In the US we have helped survivors apply for 'T-visas', which are visas available to survivors of trafficking who assist law enforcement with anti-trafficking investigations. We were awarded Sanctuary for Families' 'Above and Beyond' Award 2018 for our work on such a case.

We also support charities in this sector with legal research and with internal governance advice. An example of the former was our research in Asia in support of the effort by the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) against child sexual abuse. Our governance advice includes having advised on the establishment of both the Modern Slavery Intelligence Network (a non-profit collaboration in the UK food and agriculture sector) and the Global Commission on Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.

In the UK we act for a range of charities intervening as third parties in leading test cases in this area, including the AIRE Centre, ATLEU, ECPAT UK, and Anti-Slavery International. We have acted for interveners on trafficking cases in both divisions of the Court of Appeal, in the UK Supreme Court and in the European Court of Human Rights. You can learn more about our leading third-party interventions practice here. We were awarded the Law Society’s Excellence in Pro Bono award for this work.

We have also represented UK charities as claimants in impact litigation including in systemic judicial review proceedings. Recent examples include challenging the lack of protections for lone child asylum seekers arriving in the UK by boat, hundreds of whom were going missing and were at risk of being recruited into trafficking, and challenging the lack of protections for trafficking survivors within the prison system.

Finally, many of our frontline advice clinics, while not exclusively focused on anti-trafficking work, assist many individuals who are trafficking survivors. Examples of this include our work in the UK with the Asylum Support Appeals Project and Asylum Aid's statelessness project. Similar work in Asia includes our collaborations with Hong Kong HELP for Domestic Workers, Hong Kong Duty Lawyer Service (non-refoulement stream), and the Japan Association for Refugees. 

Our lawyers around the world who participate in any project directly advising survivors have the benefit of our bespoke training on trauma informed client care, including specific sections on how best to serve this particular client group.

Victoria Marks, founding solicitor at ATLEU explains: “I’m often asked about successful models of pro bono and I respond with reference to Freshfields because of the range, and quality, of their practice in this area. The team at Freshfields is always approachable and flexible, which means we can brainstorm new ideas at an early stage. I was particularly impressed that they developed Trauma-Informed Client Care training for their volunteers, including a section on assisting trafficking survivors: we’re very careful referring our clients, and the cases we’ve sent to Freshfields have been handled with professionalism and empathy. We’re so grateful for the consistent support from Freshfields over the years since we were established – from advice on our lease to representation in impact litigation – it makes a huge difference to our operations and to our appetite and ability to undertake systemic work.”