Young girl sitting, hugging her knees

Every day children are trafficked into and around the UK to work as domestic slaves, passed from gang to gang for sexual exploitation or locked away to work in cannabis farms. They are stripped of their rights, denied access to education, their passports taken. They are isolated in a foreign country.

Even more terrifyingly, these children may have been abducted, or sold by poverty-stricken parents who thought they were giving their children a better chance.

Threats to the safety of their family, their inability to speak English and having no friends or family to turn to means that children are trapped, too fearful to escape.

‘I thought (coming to the UK) was a holiday, I didn’t know I was going to stay here’, said a 16-year-old former slave who was brought here when she was ten years old. ‘I can’t turn around and say to my mum that I don’t want to go, because she would just say, “Do you want to stay here and die?”’

Anti-Slavery Day was established last year to raise awareness about the thousands of people in the UK and around the world trapped in modern slavery. Today is the second annual day to promote the persisting need for individuals and organisations across society to help end slavery. 

Who are trafficked children?

Trafficked children come from all over the world but recent data shows that the top five nationalities are Vietnamese, Nigerian, Chinese, British and Romanian children.

Exact estimates of number of enslaved children vary widely. Trafficking is a notoriously hard crime to see and therefore collect information on.

The National Referral Mechanism, the UK Human Trafficking Centre’s system for identifying trafficking victims, identified 390 children as potential victims of trafficking over the last two years. But that's just the tip of the iceberg -- some estimates of trafficked children and adults range into the thousands, even hundreds of thousands.

To find out more, read our summary of the key issues concerning child trafficking.

Trafficked children aren’t always hidden

Our Hidden children research challenges the conventional wisdom that child victims of trafficking are entirely hidden from society.

In reality, many attend school, church or GP clinics, but feel too afraid to admit the abuse they suffer. As a result the professionals do not pick up and act upon the signs that that the young people are being exploited.

Many of our organisation’s programmes that support trafficked children work to raise awareness among front-line services -- local authorities, schools, churches, GP clinics -- of the signs of trafficking. Our programmes also provide specialist support, access to education, legal representation and help empower young people to make positive choices that will keep them safe from the harm of their traffickers.

Get involved in Anti-Slavery Day

Please join us today and for the next month to raise awareness of this hidden crime that was supposed to have been abolished more than 200 years ago.

There are a number of events you can attend all over the UK today and for the rest of the month. For a full list of events, visit the Anti-Slavery Day website. Please also invite your friends and family, and spread the word on Facebook and Twitter.

Events include:

Support the guardianship campaign

Child victims of trafficking do not currently have anyone with legal parental responsibility to help them rebuild their lives, protect them from harm or further exploitation  once they are identified as a victim of trafficking.

This new report from ECPAT outlines why the UK should introduce a system of guardianship.

We believe that all separated migrant children and victims of trafficking should have access to a guardian. Please email your MP and ask them to support ECPAT’s campaign for a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking.

By Natalie Williams, Policy Officer

 

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By Natalie Williams - Policy Officer
Natalie Williams
- Policy team

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