The hundreds of known cases of trafficked children in the UK are
just the “tip of the iceberg” and thousands more may be trafficked
each year, a Unicef report published this week warns.
The scale of the problem is hidden by its nature and because
trafficking for sexual exploitation only recently became a crime
under a stopgap measure introduced by the 2002 asylum act.
“Trafficking is a serious abuse of child rights and is the fastest
growing business in organised crime, since it is seen as less risky
than trafficking drugs,” said David Bull, executive director of
The report highlights that children are the most vulnerable of all
Mainly coming from west Africa, eastern Europe and Asia, they are
trafficked for benefit fraud, forced or early marriage, adoption,
and exploitative labour, as well as sexual exploitation.
The west African cultural practice of sending children to live with
extended family to improve their education is used to mask some of
this trafficking, the report says.
This was highlighted in the case of Victoria Climbie, who travelled
from the Ivory Coast with her great-aunt Marie-Therese Kouao to
France then the UK, as her parents believed she would get a better
education. She died in London from abuse in February 2000.
The report raises concerns about the 8,000 to 10,000 children in
private fostering arrangements in the UKÊ- many of whom have
come from west Africa – who may be abused or exploited without
anyone knowing they are in the country.
Bob Holman, who has been involved in research into private
fostering, suggested that where children entered the UK with an
adult who was not their parent, arrangements should be made to
Social services should also recruit officers dealing specifically
in private fostering to search for these children, he said.
Unicef is calling on the government to make it illegal to traffic a
child for any purpose. Although the government’s Sexual Offences
Bill, now in the House of Commons, would tighten up laws around
trafficking people into the UK for commercial sexual exploitation,
children trafficked for other purposes would remain
Unicef is also demanding central funding for specialist care
including training for immigration officers and social workers,
counselling and safe houses.
– Stop the Traffic from www.endchildexploitation.org.uk/stopthetraffic