8.37 Trafficked Children
'Safeguarding Children Who May Have Been Trafficked', non-statutory good practice guidance issued by the Department for Education and the Home Office in October 2011
Safeguarding Trafficked Roma Children and Families, (published by the London Safeguarding Children Board in September 2010)
In March 2015,a link was added to the Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Children (2014) and the chapter updated to reflect the guidance and in particular age assessments should only be carried out where there is significant reason to doubt that the claimant is a child and should not be a routine part of a local authority’s assessment of unaccompanied or trafficked children.
- Important Information about Trafficking
- Managing Individual Situations
- What Trafficked Children Need
- Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin
- Trafficked Children who are Looked After
- International and UK Legislation
- Support Services and Useful Contacts
The organised crime of child trafficking into the UK has become an issue of considerable concern to all professionals with responsibility for the care and protection of children. Any form of trafficking children is an abuse. Children are coerced, deceived or forced into the control of others who seek to profit from their exploitation and suffering. Some cases involve UK-born children being trafficked within the UK.
It is essential that professionals working across social care, education, health, immigration and law enforcement develop an awareness of this activity and an ability to identify trafficked children. Everyone involved in the care of unaccompanied and trafficked children should be trained to recognise and understand the particular issues likely to be faced by these children.
This guidance provides information about trafficking, the roles and functions of relevant agencies and the procedures practitioners should follow to ensure the safety and well-being of children who it is suspected have been trafficked.
The definition of trafficking contained in the 'Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children' (ratified by the UK in 2006) is as follows:
"Trafficking of persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of person, by means of the threat of or use:
Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.
Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim, whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is partly because it is not considered possible for children in this situation to give informed consent. Even when a child understands what has happened, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they believe to be the will of their parents or accompanying adults. It is important that these children are protected also.
This definition is inclusive of internal trafficking or trafficking of children within borders.
Care of Unaccompanied and Trafficked Children: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities on the Care of Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking and Trafficked Children (2014) provides that where the age of a person is uncertain and there are reasons to believe that they are a child, they are presumed to be a child in order to receive immediate access to assistance, support and protection in accordance with Article 10(3) of the European Convention on action Against Trafficking in Human Beings. Age assessments should only be carried out where there is significant reason to doubt that the claimant is a child. Age assessments should not be a routine part of a local authority’s assessment of unaccompanied or trafficked children. Where age assessments are conducted, they must be Merton Compliant.
Important Information about Trafficking
Most children are trafficked for financial gain. This can include payment from or to the child's parents. In most cases, the trafficker also receives payment from those wanting to exploit the child once in the UK. Trafficking is carried out by organised gangs and individual adults or agents.
Trafficked children may be used for:
Children may be trafficked from a number of different countries for a variety of different reasons. Factors which can make children vulnerable to trafficking are varied and include such things as poverty, lack of education, discrimination and disadvantage, political conflict and economic transition, inadequate local laws and regulations. It is also true that whilst there is a demand for children within the UK, trafficking will continue to be a problem.
In order to recruit children, a variety of coercive methods are used such as abduction or kidnapping as well as more subversive ways such as the promise of education, respectable employment or a better life. It has been suggested that children have been brought in via internet transactions, foster arrangements and contracts as domestic staff, or been tricked into a bogus marriage for the purpose of forcing them into prostitution. Although there is no evidence of other forms of exploitation such as 'organ donation, or harvesting', all agencies should remain vigilant.
Many children travel to the UK on false documents. The creation of a false identity for a child can give a trafficker direct control over every aspect of the child's life. Even before they travel to the UK children may be subject to various forms of abuse and exploitation to ensure that the trafficker's control over the child continues after the child is transferred to someone else's care.
Any port of entry into the UK may be used by traffickers via air, rail and sea and as checks on main entry points are increased evidence suggests that traffickers are using more local entry points.
There is increasing evidence that children of both UK and other citizenship are being trafficked internally within the UK for very similar reasons to those outlined above. There is evidence of teenage girls born in the UK being targeted for internal trafficking between towns and cities for sexual exploitation.
Trafficked children are victims of serious crime and this will impact on their health and welfare. In order to coerce and control, they are commonly subject to physical abuse including use of drugs and alcohol, emotional and psychological abuse, sexual abuse and neglect as a result of a lack of care about their welfare and the need for secrecy surrounding their circumstances.
Managing Individual Situations
dentification of Trafficked Children
All practitioners who come into contact with children and young people in their everyday work need to be able to recognise children who have been trafficked, and be competent to act to support and protect these children from harm.
The nationality or immigration status of the child does not affect any agency's statutory responsibilities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. Nationality and immigration issues should be discussed with the UK Visas and Immigration only when the child's need for protection from harm has been addressed and should not hold up action to protect the child.
Identification of trafficked children may be difficult as they might not show obvious signs of distress or abuse. Some children are unaware that they have been trafficked, while others may actively participate in hiding that they have been trafficked.
The following indicators are not a definitive list and are intended as a guide to be included in a wider assessment of the child's circumstances.
At port of entry, the child:
Whilst resident in the UK, the child:
Children internally trafficked in the UK, indicators include:
Any agency or individual practitioner or volunteer who has a concern regarding the possible trafficking of a child should immediately make a referral under the Making a Referral Procedure. Practitioners should not do anything which would heighten the risk of harm or abduction to the child. Where a child has been trafficked, the Assessment should be carried out immediately as the opportunity to intervene is very narrow. Many trafficked children go missing from care, often within the first 48 hours. Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any Assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately.
Prompt decisions are needed when the concerns relate to a child who may be trafficked in order to act before the child goes missing.
Decision making following the receipt of a referral will normally follow discussions with the Police, the person making the referral and may involve other professionals and services - see those identified in Support Services and Useful Contacts.
Child and Family Assessment
Specific action during the Child and Family Assessment of a child who is possibly trafficked should include:
Even if there are no apparent concerns, child welfare agencies should continue to monitor the situation until the child is appropriately settled.
Strategy Discussion and Section 47 Enquiries
The Strategy Discussion should decide whether to conduct a joint interview with the child and if necessary, with the family or carers. Under no circumstances should the child and their family members or carers be interviewed together.
The Strategy Meeting should consider video interviewing the child, and taking photographs and fingerprints which would assist in identifying the child at a later date.
Professional interpreters, who have been approved and DBS checked, should be used where English is not the child's preferred language. Under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be the parent, guardian or relative.
On completion of a Section 47 Enquiry a meeting should be held with the social worker, their supervising manager, the referring agency as appropriate, the Police and other relevant professionals to decide on future action. Further action should not be taken until this meeting has been held and multi-agency agreement obtained to the proposed plan, including the need for a Child Protection Conference and Child Protection Plan.
Where it is found that the child is not a family member and is not related to any other person in this country, consideration should be given as to whether the child needs to be moved from the household and/or legal advice sought on making a separate application for immigration status.
Any law enforcement action regarding fraud, trafficking, deception and illegal entry to this country is the remit of the Police and the local authority should assist in any way possible.
What Trafficked Children Need
Trafficked children need:
The child should be offered an Independent Visitor and, if they decline, their reasons should be recorded. Any Independent Visitor appointed should have appropriate training and demonstrate an understanding of the needs faced by unaccompanied or trafficked children.
In addition, unaccompanied children should be informed of the availability of the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme.
Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin
In many cases, trafficked children apply to the UK Visas and Immigration for asylum or for humanitarian protection. For some, returning to their country of origin presents a high risk of being re-trafficked, further exploitation and abuse.
If a child does not qualify for asylum or humanitarian protection and adequate reception arrangements are in place in the country of origin, the child will usually have to return. It is important that this is handled sensitively and with assistance with reintegration which is available through voluntary return schemes.
Trafficked Children who are Looked After
Trafficked children identified as Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC) may be accommodated by the local authority under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989.
The assessment of their needs to inform their Care Plan should include a risk assessment of how the local authority intends to protect them from any trafficker being able to re-involve the child in exploitative activities. This plan should include contingency plans to be followed if the child goes missing.
Whilst the child is looked after, residential and foster carers should be vigilant about, for example, waiting cars outside the premises, telephone enquiries etc.
The local authority should continue to share information with the Police, which emerges during the placement of a child who may have been trafficked, concerning potential crimes against the child, risk to other children, or relevant immigration matters.
Significant numbers of children who are categorised as UASC have also been trafficked. Some of these children go missing before they are properly identified as victims of trafficking. Such cases should be urgently reported to the police. Local authorities should consider seriously the risk that a trafficked child is likely to go missing.
The Missing People Helpline and the NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice and Information Helpline (0800 107 7057) can offer support.
International and UK Legislation
International agreements and legal instruments relevant to trafficked and exploited children include:
In 2000 trafficking became enshrined in international law for the first time through the Palermo Protocol.
UK legislation and guidance relevant to trafficked and exploited children includes:
Support Services and Useful Contacts
UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC)(0114 252 3891)
CEOP - Child Exploitation and On-line Protection Centre (020 7238 2320)
NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice and Information Line (0800 107 7057) - an advice and information service for professionals available since October 2007, a case consultancy service is also available by appointment.
Refugee Council Children's Panel - Provides support to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
ECPAT UK (020 7233 9887) - UK children's rights organisation campaigning to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.
UNICEF (020 7405 5592)
Afruca (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) (020 7704 2261) Promotes the welfare of African children in the UK and is concerned about cruelty against African children.
CROP - Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (0113 240 3040) A voluntary organisation working to end the sexual exploitation of children and young people by pimps and traffickers.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office website (0207 008 1500)
Crime Reduction Toolkits - The Trafficking Toolkit
The Missing People Helpline and the NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice and Information Helpline (0800 107 7057)