Ministers reject inquiry into trafficked children lost from care

The government has refused to hold an independent inquiry into cases of trafficked children who have gone missing from council care in the UK, Community Care has learned.

In June, a report by the government’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) revealed 183 suspected child trafficking victims had gone missing from care during an 18-month period. This was out of 330 identified cases where children had been trafficked from countries including China, Nigeria, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Eritrea.

A study in January by charity ECPAT UK, which campaigns against child exploitation, found 52 children suspected of being trafficked had gone missing from care across Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry.

The Home Office also refused a request for an independent inquiry from ECPAT earlier in the year. A Home Office official stated in a letter to ECPAT that: “We are not convinced that such a move would achieve any more than we have already achieved…by tackling the problem of child trafficking”.

The government has also failed to respond in detail to CEOP’s findings. In July, children’s minister Beverley Hughes wrote to ECPAT saying there were “currently no plans to make a statement in parliament regarding [the CEOP] report”.

ECPAT renewed calls for an independent inquiry last week as it published with Unicef proposals to improve services for trafficked children.

The report called for trafficked children to be given guardians, appointed by a body independent of government, to uphold their best interests and advocate for them.

Kevin Brennan, junior children’s minister, said: “We have provided guidance to councils, who have a clear responsibility to monitor children in their care and must work with police to reduce the risk of children going missing and to manage any children who do run away.”

The Department for Children, Schools and Families put child trafficking guidance for professionals out for consultation in July.

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