Incidence of child trafficking to the UK remains high and hidden

Date: 16th October 2017
Category: Children in situations of exploitation

Many children in the UK are being forced to work in cannabis factories and commit street crime, according to the NSPCC as it warns of the hidden toll of child slavery in the UK.

In the last decade, the organisation has received more than 2,000 referrals relating to child trafficking cases, with domestic servitude and exploitation for sex or labour flagged as main concerns.

The charity reported that Vietnamese children made up a fifth of all those referred to its Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) since it was set up ten years ago, noting that the secretive nature of modern-day slavery means that the number of referrals likely represents a small fraction of child victims in the country.

The NSPCC has called for increased training among professionals to better identify warning signs, as well as the creation of a single international database to improve child protection efforts.

Mandy John-Baptiste, head of the CTAC, said: "People don't like to think about the real age of the young person they're paying for sex with, why a child might be 'helping out' in their nail bar, or why their cleaner or child care is so cheap. It's an ugly truth to admit.

"This is a child protection issue and it's not going away. Professionals must open their eyes and be able to spot the warning signs, and work with other agencies so that we can jointly take action to prevent and protect children from this form of abuse."

Last month the National Crime Agency warned that modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK are much more prevalent than previously thought, with cases affecting "every large town and city in the country".

In 2013, research by the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "Many believe slavery couldn't possibly go on today, yet the problem is all too real.

"We must expose the dark underbelly of slavery that, sometimes, goes on right under our noses, and bring those responsible to justice.

"These are children who have been denied their basic human rights and are bound by their enslavers, who will force them into the most degrading, hopeless life imaginable.

"I urge anyone who thinks a child might be in danger to contact our CTAC team."