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Press releases archive


ECPAT UK urges MPs to put children at the heart of the Modern Slavery Bill

5th December 2013

The protection of child victims of trafficking should be a priority for MPs who are due to debate the Modern Slavery Bill in the House of Commons today, ECPAT UK has said.

The Modern Slavery Bill, announced earlier this year by the Home Secretary Theresa May, provides an opportunity for the UK Government to signal its commitment to tackling human trafficking and, in particular, its commitment to protecting children who are particularly vulnerable to this abuse.

Ahead of the crucial debate, ECPAT UK has briefed MPs on the key priorities for addressing child trafficking that put victim protection at the heart of the Bill. These include:

•    Creation of a specific offence of child trafficking/exploitation – this would reflect the difference in the definition of child trafficking from that of adults and signal recognition of the gravity of the crime against children

•    Introduction of a system of legal guardianship for child victims – a guardian should have the responsibility to act in the best interest of the child in decisions made to ensure his/her safety and to ensure they receive the support they are entitled to and require in order to recover from their abuse

•    Improvements to the National Referral Mechanism – this official system of identification of victims of trafficking has been shown to be hugely flawed and must be massively overhauled in order to ensure victims are quickly identified and provided with appropriate support

•    Establishment of an Anti-Trafficking/Slavery Commissioner – a Commissioner that is independent of Government would improve the collection of data on trafficking and oversee the UK’s response to trafficking in all of its forms, making recommendations and assessing the effectiveness of existing strategies

Initial statements by the Home Secretary have revealed that the Bill is likely to be focused on tackling the criminal element of trafficking. Whilst this is a welcome move and a vital part of improving the UK’s response against this human rights abuse, ECPAT UK is concerned that there is a real lack of recognition of the essential need to legislate to protect victims of trafficking and forced labour.

“Without the safety, protection and assistance of victims, convictions under human trafficking legislation will remain worryingly low, and the UK will appear to be ‘soft touch’ on trafficking, despite the Government’s best intentions,” said Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns.

“Too many child victims of trafficking slip through the net and are exposed to further risk, even after they are discovered by authorities. The Bill must recognise the particular vulnerability of child victims, legislate to keep them safe and give them the required support needed to rebuild their lives after often years of unspeakable abuse and trauma.”


ECPAT UK is a leading children’s rights charity working on the issues of child exploitation and child trafficking. It is active in campaigning and lobbying Government, producing research, training frontline professionals and working with young victims of trafficking.

Read ECPAT UK's briefing to MPs on the Modern Slavery Bill

For more information please contact ECPAT UK on 0207 700 5435 or


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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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