Children trafficked into the UK should have “guardians” from social services to provide care and residence permits while their needs are assessed, under proposals published today by UNICEF and charity ECPAT UK.
Care and protection for trafficked children in the UK is “patchy” and completely absent in some areas, according to the organisations.
Currently, trafficked children have no legal protection unless they apply for asylum, where they have little chance of success, UNICEF and ECPAT UK argue.
The organisations call on the UK government to reverse its exclusion of children subject to immigration controls from the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
They also recommend proper national data collection on trafficked children in the UK and the creation of a “national rapporteur”, who would have statutory powers to request information and report to parliament.
About 1.2m are trafficked across the world each year and exploited in industries such as the sex industry, sweatshops and domestic service.
While the exact numbers of children trafficked to the UK is unknown, the government earlier this year revealed that there had been about 330 victims identified over an 18-month period and 183 of these went missing from social services care.