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Press releases archive


Child trafficking in the UK on the increase, Government admits

18 October 2012 - Anti-Slavery Day

The UK Government has today, on the third national Anti-Slavery Day, admitted there has been an increase in the number of children being trafficked into the UK, which highlights the urgent need for direct action to tackle the growing problem.

ECPAT UK, which has campaigned for the rights of child victims of trafficking in the UK for more than 10 years, is demanding that the Government uses this opportunity to prove its commitment to the fight against human trafficking, in particular by introducing an independent Anti-Trafficking Commissioner and a system of guardianship to support child victims of trafficking.

In a report released today, the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on Human Trafficking stated that the number of children referred into the National Referral Mechanism had risen from 186 in 2010 to 234 in 2011. However, earlier this year, the UK Human Trafficking Centre, which coordinates the UK’s response to trafficking, identified 489 children during 2011.

It is for this reason that ECPAT UK is calling on the Government to establish a system of guardianship. Such a system would mean that every child victim of trafficking would have someone with parental authority to make decisions based on their best interest and advocate for long-term solutions. A guardian would ensure these vulnerable children receive the educational, medical, practical and legal support necessitated by their history of trauma and exploitation.

Despite having the support of 25 leading rights organisations and collecting nearly 736,000 British signatures calling for such a system, the IDMG report makes no reference to how it intends to fulfil its international obligations to introduce a system of guardianship to keep child victims safe.

While ECPAT UK appreciates the work undertaken by the IDMG, we believe elements of this report to be flawed as it has not been produced by an independent body that is able to criticise the UK Government response to trafficking. Despite its platitudes about tackling the issue, we know there has been a real lack of concrete action by the government to reduce the numbers, introduce mandatory frontline training, prosecute traffickers and protect victims. In fact, ECPAT UK, which receives no statutory funding, provides training to social workers, police and others in order to fill this vital gap.

Therefore, we have campaigned for five years for the Government to introduce an Anti-Trafficking Commissioner – an independent mechanism that would ensure the systematic collection, monitoring and analysis of data, and would hold the Government to account for its responsibility to protect child victims of trafficking – in line with its international calls and obligations.

Christine Beddoe, Director of ECPAT UK, said : “Each year hundreds of vulnerable children are sold, forced or tricked into coming to the UK, many believing they will get an education or a respectable job. Instead, they are abused in some of the worst ways imaginable.

“A lack of awareness and training among frontline professionals means many children are not being identified as trafficked and do not get the protection that they both desperately need and deserve. If they are identified, most face uncertainty in their immigration status and live in fear of the repercussions threatened by their traffickers.

“Child trafficking has been described as a high-profit, low-risk crime. With only eight convictions in England and Wales under human trafficking legislation last year, it is easy to see why traffickers are continuing to exploit vulnerable children in the UK in this way for financial gain. More must be done to improve identification of victims, to target and prosecute the traffickers and to bring justice and peace of mind to their victims.

“ECPAT UK works with former child victims who are deeply traumatised by their experiences at the hands of adults. They represent some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children in this country. This is why ECPAT UK has tirelessly campaigned for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking, which would give each child a person who has parental authority for them and who can help them navigate the complexities of the UK’s asylum, welfare and criminal systems: someone to be by their side and on their side, and who can help them begin to recover.”

Christine Beddoe, Director, ECPAT UK
Tel: 0207 233 9887 or 07906 341 889

For information on our calls to introduce an Anti-Trafficking Commissioner see


Copyright © ECPAT UK 2015.

Charity number: 1104948. Company Ltd by Guarantee: 5061385.
4A Chillingworth Road, London N7 8QJ. 
Tel: 020 7607 2136. Fax: 020 7700 5435.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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