A VICTIM of child slavery who was trafficked to the UK as a boy is awaiting a decision which could see him sent back to Vietnam from his new life in County Durham.

Stephen, whose real name cannot be disclosed to protect his identity, spent more than six years in the hands of a criminal gang before being rescued at the age of 16.

Since 2014 he has been in the care of Shildon vicar, the Reverend David Tomlinson and his family, during which time he has learnt English and has started his education.

Yesterday, the now 20-year-old gave evidence at an appeal hearing at North Shields County Court where his lawyer Liz Mendoza called on Judges Holmes and Gumsley to reverse the Home Office’s refusal of his asylum application.

In December, two years and two months after his initial asylum interview, Stephen received a letter informing him his request to stay in the UK was rejected.

Stephen argues his life could be in danger he his was deported to Vietnam.

The court heard he believed his conversion to Christianity could lead him to face religious persecution, while publicity surrounding his case and political posts on Facebook, despite him having changed to a pseudonym, which denounced the Vietnamese regime could lead traffickers to recapture him and the country’s authorities to imprison him.

Stephen, who worked on cannabis farms across the UK before being rescued by the authorities in the North-East in 2014, said: “My first fear is because I know too much about the business of the gangs who grow cannabis here, I could be a valuable source of information and they can take advantage.

"The second thing is if I return to Vietnam, they check ideology of people who have been living away for a long time, they will check if I will be against the communist regime or not.”

David Mills, representing the Home Office, told the court there was little evidence to suggest Stephen would face persecution as there were several approved churches he could attend.

He added recapture by traffickers or identification by Vietnamese authorities was unlikely, and at most a “mere possibility”.

A decision is expected within two to three weeks.