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Press releases archive


Protection needs of child victims overlooked in draft Modern Slavery Bill

16 December 2013

ECPAT UK, a leading children’s rights charity, today called the Home Secretary’s Modern Slavery Bill an important first step in streamlining anti-trafficking law but expressed concerns that the draft legislation has not adequately reflected the immediate protection needs of child victims of trafficking.

While welcoming the Government’s commitment to introducing legislation and policy to combat human trafficking and modern slavery, ECPAT UK said that the narrow focus of the Modern Slavery Bill omitted several vital measures to keep trafficked children safe.Notable amongst the omissions in the Bill were a system of legal guardianship for child victims of trafficking, a specific offence of child trafficking to reflect the severity of the crime and a non-criminalisation clause to protect victims forced to commit crimes by their traffickers.

Supporters of ECPAT UK’s campaign to protect trafficked children in the Modern Slavery Bill were, however, able to celebrate the inclusion of an Anti-Slavery Commissioner to collect data and hold the Government to account for its progress against human trafficking and modern slavery -- though further scrutiny is still required to ensure that the commissioner is independent.

One of the most glaring omissions in the Bill was the failure to introduce a legal system of guardianship for all child victims of trafficking.

The fact that 60% of all trafficked children go missing from care once they have been identified by British authorities is a clear indication that the Government must improve its child victim protection record.

In her evidence submission to the Modern Slavery Bill review, undertaken prior to the Bill’s launch, Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy and Campaigns, ECPAT UK, said:

“Since child victims of trafficking may still be under the control of their traffickers, specialist child guardians would help to sever these ties, as well as encourage integration into society, navigate the child through the complex processes by attending all key meetings, be someone they can call upon for advice and challenge public authorities when they fail.”

ECPAT UK widely welcomed the Report of the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review, released alongside the draft Bill, which supported ECPAT UK’s campaign calls with recommendations for a legal system of guardianship, a non-criminalisation clause for victims of trafficking and a specific child trafficking offence.

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK, said:  “The Home Secretary and the Security Minister are acutely aware of the pervasive abuse vulnerable children and adults are subjected to through the crimes of human trafficking and modern slavery.

“In its current state, the Bill emphasises the criminal element of trafficking at the expense of the immediate needs of thousands of victims of trafficking and modern slavery, including hundreds of children. While it is vital for the Government to improve its conviction rates for trafficking and exploitation, without the safety, protection and assistance of victims, convictions under the Bill will remain low.”

ECPAT UK will continue to campaign for the inclusion of these measures as the Bill passes through legislative scrutiny before becoming law in May 2014.


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.

About our campaign

ECPAT UK has partnered with Walk Free to campaign for better protections for child victims of trafficking in the Modern Slavery Bill. Walk Free is a movement of people everywhere, fighting to end one of the world's greatest evils: modern slavery. The campaign calls on the Home Secretary to introduce the following provisions in the Modern Slavery Bill:

  • Measures to protect and assist all victims, including the creation of a system of legal guardianship to provide vulnerable children with an independent professional to fight for their rights
  • The establishment of an independent Anti-Trafficking Commissioner to monitor and improve the UK’s response to human trafficking
  • The creation of a specific crime of child trafficking and exploitation to reflect the severity of this abuse of children and convict more offenders
  • Protection for victims so they are not imprisoned for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers

Sign the petition here


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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