Government toughens stance on child trafficking

The government has strengthened the UK's response to child trafficking by deciding to opt into a European directive on human trafficking, the Home Office announced yesterday.

The government has strengthened the UK’s response to child trafficking by deciding to opt into a European directive on human trafficking, the Home Office announced yesterday.

The EU Directive – which the government had initially delayed signing up to – will introduce measures including provisions for appointing an independent guardian for every unaccompanied or separated migrant child. It will also strengthen the UK’s power to prosecute UK nationals who commit offences anywhere in the world.

Immigration minister Damian Green said: “Opting in would send a powerful message to traffickers that Britain is not a soft touch and that we remain world leaders in fighting this terrible crime.

“The UK has an excellent record on fighting human trafficking and the organised criminals who profit from misery. The government is determined to build on that.”

Independent bodies in each European country will be responsible for monitoring the implementation of the measures; giving advice and addressing recommendations to governments.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said the government’s decision to opt into the EU directive represented a “significant step forward in making sure that child victims are given the protection they desperately need”.

The government will also soon be publishing a human trafficking strategy, focusing on: strengthening work with countries where criminal gangs are based; improving the co-ordination of policing efforts in the UK to tackle trafficking and working with professionals to improve help for victims of trafficking.

Meanwhile, it has been claimed that vulnerable children are being trafficked into Britain via Eurostar, because there are no specialist police patrols at St Pancras station.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat baroness and London Assembly member Dee Doocey asked what measures were in place at St Pancras to prevent children being trafficked into the UK.

Earl Attlee said: “The primary function of officers at St Pancras is to undertake checks for prohibited goods and restricted items. If there was any suspicion that a child arriving at St Pancras was at risk, the UK Border Agency would refer to the appropriate authorities.”

Baroness Doocey responded by asking whether that meant a 12-year-old child could travel from Europe to St Pancras without any checks at all on their safety when they arrived in the UK. She suggested there ought to be a specialist child protection team at St Pancras “to ensure that children trafficked into the UK are not being brought in and then used for sexual exploitation and benefit fraud.”

Independent Labour MP Denis MacShane also tackled prime minister David Cameron on the topic this morning in Prime Minister’s Questions. Cameron pledged to do as much as possible to help prevent trafficking.

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