More than half of children known or suspected to be victims of trafficking in three English regions have gone missing from social services’ care, according to a new report.
The research, carried out by ECPAT UK, a coalition of children’s charities, found 80 reported cases of known or suspected child victims of trafficking in the North West, North East and West Midlands, of whom 48 had later gone missing from care and never been found.
ECPAT UK said the figures were “deeply disturbing” and called on the government to launch a national inquiry into children who have travelled to the UK alone or arrived with an adult who is not a parent or guardian, who then go missing.
Director Christine Beddoe said that the figures represented the “tip of the iceberg”, with many more trafficked children not coming to the attention of the authorities.
The report also found that the ability of councils and the voluntary sector to plan and provide for trafficked children was being compromised by their uncertain immigration status. Beddoe said that most trafficked children were only allowed to remain in the UK until they were 18, so some councils were reluctant to invest in services for them or were unsure how to react.
“When children come in aged 16 or 17, they are being offered less than acceptable levels of care because the local authority is confused about what it can or can’t do,” said Beddoe.
The charity called for residency permits or visas to be given to trafficked children to enable them to stay beyond the age of 18, and the appointment of independent guardians with a statutory responsibility to advocate on their behalf.
A Home Office spokesperson said the government was dedicated to combating child trafficking in all its forms.
Contact the author