Some healthcare workers are failing to take young victims of trafficking seriously, a study by Preston academics has found.
Young victims of trafficking are facing “many barriers” which prevent them from accessing adequate healthcare, the authors from the University of Central Lancashire said.
Experts conducted interviews with 29 people aged 16 to 21 who had been trafficked to the UK. Half had been trafficked for sex work.
Physical violence, threats, restrictions on liberty and deprivation were “widespread” among the victims, the authors said. Two-thirds were psychologically distressed and 12 reported suicidal thoughts.
The victims had “limited” access to healthcare because of “complex gatekeeping systems, language barriers and practitioners who fail to take the young people seriously”, the authors said.
Prof Nicky Stanley from the University of Central Lancashire, and lead author of the study, said: “These young people are facing many barriers which prevent them from gaining access to vital healthcare.
“They are frequently expected to repeat their stories to a range of practitioners instead of establishing one point of contact. This can add to their distress, they often feel under scrutiny during assessments leading to a lack of trust and language barriers can result in further isolation.
“We’re operating in an environment where mental health services are already stretched and healthcare professionals are asked to act as gatekeepers to deny access or charge migrants for their healthcare, which causes confusion regarding trafficked young people’s rights to these services.”