HUNDREDS of trafficking victims trying to start new lives in Britain have suffered as a result of a “secret internal policy” operated by two home secretaries, a campaign group has alleged during a High Court hearing.

Asylum Aid said that from early 2022 to April 2023 the Home Office operated a “secret policy” to frustrate the right to remain of at least 1600 confirmed victims of trafficking and modern slavery.

Government lawyers dispute the claims.

The allegations were made during a High Court damages fight involving an asylum-seeker and the Home Office, relating to periods when Priti Patel and Suella Braverman were in office.

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Lawyers representing the asylum seeker, who is being supported by Asylum Aid, have told a judge that a “serious misuse of power” has been exposed.

The man, an Albanian in his 20s who has not been named during the litigation, says, as a result of the “secret, unlawful policy”, he was denied the right to leave to remain in Britain for more than a year.

He claims that denial of the right to leave to remain breached his human rights – and he wants damages.

Ministers are fighting the claim and a barrister leading the Home Office legal team told Mr Justice Lane on Thursday that the issue was “delay” not “secret” policies.

Lawyers representing the man outlined allegations in a written argument.

Chris Buttler KC and Zoe McCallum told the judge: “This claim exposes a serious misuse of power.”

They said there was a policy granting modern slavery victims leave to remain in Britain – in accordance with a European convention against trafficking.

The two lawyers said that in October 2021, a High Court judge’s decision required the Home Office to grant recognised modern slavery victims leave to remain where they had a pending asylum claim.

They said that the decision created a right to leave to remain to a “class of victim of modern slavery” not hitherto thought by the Home Office to have such a right.

But they alleged that there had been a “secret internal policy” telling officials not to grant the right to leave to remain created by that decision.

Outside court, a spokeswoman for Asylum Aid said that evidence had been garnered from documents disclosed during the litigation.

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Cathryn McGahey KC, who is leading the Home Office legal team, said: “This case is about delay.

“It is not a case about secret or unpublished policies.”

McGahey added, in a written case outline, that the man had not suffered “any significant detriment as a consequence of the pause in decision-making”.

She said he had continued to receive “state support in the form of housing, education, medical care and state benefits” – and told the judge that his claim should be dismissed.