The National Crime Agency today confirmed that the number of UK-born children thought to have been trafficked for sexual exploitation more than doubled last year.
It's unclear whether they were being taken out of the country or moved within the UK. People were thought to have been trafficked for various reasons, including sexual exploitation and labour. Nearly two thirds of those referred were female (1,122) and around a quarter (450) were children.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) said "We know that this is a crime which affects some of society's most vulnerable people, and some victims will remain undetected. Equally, some of those referred to the National Referral Mechanism may not ultimately be classified as victims of human trafficking.
A total of 1,746 people from 112 different countries were highlighted as potential victims of trafficking in 2013, up 47% on the previous year."
The definition of human trafficking is: ‘The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.’
A shocking figure of fifty-six minors from the UK were flagged up as potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in 2013. This demonstrates a rise of 155% on 2012. The figures come from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), a Government safeguarding framework which authorities and charities refer potential trafficking victims to.
However, the Government has said that it was unlikely the data reflected the scale of the issue. Home Office Minister Karen Bradley said the figures were "unlikely to show the full scale of modern slavery nor the human suffering behind each statistic".
"The National Crime Agency is leading an enhanced and co-ordinated response to targeting trafficking gangs, we are increasing protection for victims, and we are strengthening legislation through a modern slavery bill. The bill will send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up.”
It was also suggested by the NCA that the number of foreign children identified as potential victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the UK also rose by 11%, to 88. The most common nationality or country of origin for child victims of trafficking (not just for sexual abuse) was Vietnam, followed by the UK and then Albania. In total, the number of cases involving UK-born victims in 2013 rose 173% to 90; of those, 63 were children, an increase of 186% on 2012.
As Family Solicitors our job is to assist in the protection of vulnerable children. Unfortunately I frequently come across cases where the welfare of the child is far from being considered as the priority when dealing with the child’s best interests. The Government has released a (in my view extremely helpful, and practical) Guide to Safeguarding Children Who May Have Been Trafficked.
Written by Kaleel Anwar, a Family & Child Law Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Slater and Gordon have offices nationwide and offer both flexible pricing and fixed fees for family law, children law and divorce. For a free initial consultation call freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help.