Trafficking in persons means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion for the purposes of exploitation. The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation is considered ‘trafficking in persons’ even if this does not involve the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion.
The vast majority of people entering the UK illegally are smuggled rather than trafficked. A smuggled person will be complicit in the activity, often paying large amounts of money to be transported. Trafficking on the other hand, specifically targets the trafficked person as an object of exploitation. In practice, it may be quite difficult to make an initial distinction between smuggling and trafficking. In some cases the person may think they are being smuggled, but are in fact being trafficked, as they are unaware of their fate.
Most children are trafficked for financial gain. This can include payment from or to the child’s parents. In many situations, parents part with their children believing that they will be offered a better life or opportunities in the place they are being taken to. In most cases, the trafficker also receives payment from those wanting to exploit the child once in the UK. Some trafficking is carried out by organised gangs. In other cases individuals traffic children for their own personal gain. Children may be trafficked for:
- Sexual exploitation
- Domestic servitude
- Sweatshop, restaurant and other catering work
- Agricultural labour, including tending plants in illegal cannabis farms
- Benefit fraud
- Involvement in petty criminal activity
- Organ harvesting
- Drug mules, drug dealing or decoys for adult drug traffickers
- Illegal inter-country adoption.
Child victims of trafficking may enter the UK in a variety of ways:
- As unaccompanied asylum seeking children. Children may be told to ask for asylum on arrival in the country. They then become looked after and at a later date are removed or abducted by their traffickers; often the children make contact with the traffickers as they have been instructed.
- As students or visitors
- Brought in by an adult as dependents or be met by an adult who claims to be a relative.
- Via internet transactions
- As a private fostering arrangement for the purpose of benefit claims
- As domestic staff which is tantamount to slavery. There is thought to be considerable exploitation of children in situations of domestic service
- Bogus marriage for the purpose of forced prostitution
Trafficking may also take place within the UK – mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation.
If an agency or a professional suspects that a child is the victim of trafficking, the Police or Children’s Social Care must be informed. Child victims of trafficking are by definition children in need of protection and the arrangements for safeguarding and promoting their welfare will be applied as for all children with the additional considerations as apply to asylum seeking children or sexually exploited children.
Children’s Social Care must:
- Consider involvement of UK Border Agency in strategy discussions
- Provide victims/potential victims with a safe place to stay
- Assess the child’s vulnerability to the continuing influence/control of his or her traffickers.
- Assist in the identification of possible traffickers masquerading as ‘relatives’
- Monitor children who have been trafficked placed in care for signs that they are meeting the traffickers including monitoring their phone calls
- Provide support and build up a relationship to encourage the child not to leave with the trafficker.
- Establish relevant information about the child’s background;
- Understand the reasons the child has come to the UK
- Check all the documentation in relation to the child e.g. passport, Home Office papers, birth certificate and proof of guardianship to see if it appears to be original and valid e.g. do pictures resemble child; do details correspond with information provided by child/adult carers
- Ensure a recent or new photograph of the child is included in the child’s file together with copies of all relevant identification documentation.
The child should be interviewed separately from any adult carer to support them to speak freely. Assessment interviews should focus on:
- Family composition, brothers, sisters, ages;
- Parents’ employment;
- Tasks done around the house;
- Length of time in this country;
- Where they lived in their country of origin;
- Where they went to school in their country of origin; and
- Who cared for them in their country of origin.
The adults in the family should be interviewed separately covering the same areas. A comparison can then be made between the answers to ensure they match.
If an interpreter is needed, under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be a parent, guardian or relative.
The following is likely to be necessary to address the child’s needs:
- Appropriately trained and CRB checked independent interpreters
- Child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS)
- Independent legal advice about their rights and immigration status
- Medical services
- Sexual health services
- A risk assessment of the danger the child will face if he or she is repatriated;
- Family tracing and contact (unless it is not consistent with their welfare)
- Practitioners to be informed and competent in matters relating to trafficking and exploitation
- Someone to spend time with them to build up a level of trust
- A safe placement or a care placement
- Their whereabouts to be kept confidential
In many cases trafficked children apply to the UK Borders Agency for asylum because of the high risk of harm if they are forced to return to their countries of origin. All such claims will be carefully considered. If the child does not qualify for asylum, they will normally be given Discretionary Leave to remain in the country until their 18th birthday. It is expected that most Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children up to the age of 18 years, including children who have been trafficked, will be provided with services under Section 20 Children Act 1989 (or Section 31 if greater protection is needed) as a looked after child
Any care plan must include a risk assessment setting out how the child will be protected from any trafficker, to minimise any risk of traffickers being able to reinvolve a child in exploitative activities. This plan should include contingency plans to be followed if the young person goes missing.
The NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre can be contacted on 0808 800 5000 Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4.30pm or email email@example.com.
For details of the Home Office’s National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for the reporting of potential victims of human trafficking see http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/crime/referral-forms-human-trafficking/
If a child victim of trafficking does go missing, contact should be made with The National Missing Persons Helpline (Tel: 0871 2225055 – firstname.lastname@example.org) which helps local authorities to find young people missing from care and other missing children known to Children’s Social Care.
A Child Trafficking Assessment Toolkit has been designed to help front line staff identify children who may have been trafficked as part of a National Referral Mechanism. Designated expert ‘Competent Authorities’ within the UK Human Trafficking Centre and the UK Border Agency use the information gathered using the toolkit to decide whether a child meets the Council on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings definition of trafficking, leading to the provision of appropriate accommodation and support.
Needs Assessment Toolkit on the Criminal Justice Response to Human Trafficking. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
GOOD PRACTICE GUIDANCE
Indicators that a child may have been trafficked include:
- Has no passport or other means of identification or has false documentation
- Is accompanied by an adult who insists on remaining with the child at all times
- Is withdrawn and refuses to talk or appears afraid to talk to a person in authority
- Has a prepared story very similar to those that other children have given
- Does not appear to have money but does have a mobile phone
- Possession of large amounts of money or expensive belongings with no plausible explanation
- Is unable, or reluctant to give details of accommodation or other personal details
- Receives unexplained/unidentified phone calls whilst in placement/temporary accommodation
- Has a history with missing links and unexplained moves
- Has gone missing from local authority care or appears to be missing for periods with no plausible explanation
- Is required to earn a minimum amount of money every day
- Works in various locations
- Has limited freedom of movement
- Is known to beg for money
- Performs excessive housework chores and rarely leaves the house
- Is being cared for by adult/s who are not their parents and the quality of the relationship between the child and the carers is not good
- Is one among a number of unrelated children found at one address
- Has not been registered with or attended a GP practice;
- Has not been enrolled in school;
- Is permanently deprived of a large part of their earnings by another person
- Phone calls or letters from adults outside the usual range of social contacts
- Adults loitering outside the child’s usual place of residence
- Significantly older boyfriend
- Accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding
- Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults