Vulnerabilities of trafficked rural Chinese girls in the UK asylum system: a thematic analysis

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Murphy, Helen Louise
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University College Cork
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This thesis presents the cases of ten rural Chinese girls who were transnationally trafficked and claimed asylum in the UK after presenting to the UK authorities as unaccompanied minors. The ten case-studies are drawn from a point-in-time historical sample of asylum case files which were created between the years 2007 and 2012. The thesis draws upon an ecological systems theoretical framework to analyse the girls’ lives and experiences as they were conveyed by the girls themselves to British immigration officials in a series of interviews and statements given over the course of the asylum process. It is underpinned by Pearce et. al’s conceptual framework of human trafficking as a social process and not a one-off event. The aim of the thesis is to identify forces at play both in China and the UK which may contribute to victims’ vulnerability to a recurring cycle of trafficking and re-trafficking. All ten girls were refused leave to remain by the Home Office and all ten refusal decisions were appealed against in Asylum and Immigration Tribunals. The available documents were accumulated by Professor Jackie Sheehan in her capacity as China Country Expert Witness in the girls’ appeals. As well as asylum interviews, witness statements and Home Office refusal letters, the asylum case files included practitioners’ reports, including those from support and advocacy groups and social workers and medical reports. All documents were systematically analysed and coded using thematic analysis. The data reveals much about official responses to child trafficking and provides an opportunity to track the asylum process and identify shortcomings which put child trafficking victims at risk of continued trafficking even whilst under the auspices of the UK authorities. It is argued that the prioritization of immigration status over safeguarding and a culture of hostility, disbelief, and feigned ignorance among Home Office civil servants and practitioners responsible for the welfare of the children can be viewed as secondary victimization which causes further harm to traumatised girls in relation to their safety, their physical and psychological wellbeing, and in relation to the outcome of their cases.  
Child trafficking , UK asylum system , Vulnerabilities of trafficked children , Culture of disbelief , Hostile environment , Human rights in China , Culture of feigned ignorance
Murphy, H. L. 2022. Vulnerabilities of trafficked rural Chinese girls in the UK asylum system: a thematic analysis. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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