Writes Althea, Content Writer, Headline Diplomat eMagazine
Child trafficking is a heinous crime that’s practiced around the globe. In most cases, trafficked children are usually forced into sexual exploitation and labor. Among all the human trafficking cases reported worldwide, children account for 27%. Surprisingly, two out of three trafficked kids are girls.
Unfortunately, some kids are sold to human traffickers by their relatives, which is evil. Others find themselves in this situation through false promises of a better life and education. Besides, the trafficked and exploited kids live in slave-like conditions without good shelter, enough food, or Clothing. What’s more, they are seriously abused and cut off from their families.
However, the most disturbing thing at the moment is the child slavery victims being lured back to exploitation due to lack of support amid a surge in cases. This is not only a failure but quite disappointing on the part of local governments and organisations involved. Yes, the surge may be difficult to handle, but failure to offer enough support to these victims is truly disheartening.
Most child slavery victims are easily lured back because they live in deplorable conditions and have no other option but only try to survive. Many of these victims have been left to traverse complicated legal, education, and immigration systems alone due to a lack of the needed support. Note that some are foreigners and don’t have the capacity to navigate through a foreign country easily.
According to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), which is UK’s framework for referring and supporting victims, the number of council referrals of suspected child victims of modern slavery in England has increased by 807% in five years. During this period, the cases rose from 127 in 2014 to 1,152 in 2018. Astonishingly, the rate of child referrals increased by 67%, in a year alone, from 690 in 2017, with kids making up 92% of all referrals made by councils.
In October 2019, the National Crime Agency (NCA) disclosed that 292 children were rescued from county line drugs networks in a crackdown. On the same note, 743 people were arrested. Even with such efforts, a lack of support from the local authorities can make all the efforts futile when the rescued kids are lured back to exploitation by the same traffickers.
Between 13 and 20 May 2019, 500 men and women from county line drug gangs were arrested. In the same operation, 364 children were rescued and there were more than 30 referrals to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). Officers recovered cash totaling more than £312,649.
Laura Duran, senior policy and research officer at Every Child Protected Against Trafficking (ECPAT), UK, said the increase in referrals is a huge concern as local authorities lack funding to properly safeguard an ever-increasing number of kids needing specialist support.
Duran added, “Through our direct work with trafficked young people, we see firsthand the risks they face if they aren’t adequately supported. Many have no other option but to return to traffickers who exploit their continued vulnerability.”
Simon Blackburn, Chair of the Local Government Association’s safer and stronger communities board, said that the heightened rate of council referrals, more so relating to county lines drug trafficking or child sexual exploitation, were having a massive impact on overstretched council services, especially children services.
He added, “Councils are committed to tackling the despicable crime of modern slavery, which is a rising threat to our communities. It can destroy the lives of vulnerable people working in fear of physical violence from ruthless gangmasters for little or no pay.”
Even Simon Blackburn agreed that funding will help, he emphasized that the government has to make sure councils have enough long-term funds to handle this issue and support its victims in all ways possible. On top of that, he suggested that a sustainable NRM system should be formed.
Charities have already warned that many unaccompanied minors are at great risk of trafficking on arrival in the UK, due to lack of one-to-one support, making them inadequately protected and easy to exploit again. A good example is a case of a young and highly vulnerable British sex trafficking victim who was trafficked again by county lines drugs gangs. Since Home Office repeatedly failed to meet its legal obligation to give her safe accommodation, the young victim was easily lured back to exploitation.
The 22-year old has a history of drug abuse and sexual exploitation. She grew up in the care system and was allegedly abused while in foster care. In June 2019, she was identified as a potential victim of trafficking by the Home Office. However, Home Office failed to find her a safe place to live. After a short while, she was re-trafficked by criminal gangs and forced into prostitution in different areas in London.
Rachel Davis, a solicitor at Duncan Lewis, said, “The failure to provide our client with the specialist support and accommodation to which she was legally entitled has had devastating consequences, including her having been repeatedly re-trafficked, sexually assaulted, and financially exploited.”
She added, “Our client was recognized as a victim of modern slavery as long ago as June 2019, yet she was not provided with a safe place to live until January 2020 and only once we had obtained a court order compelling the secretary of state for the home department to do so.”
This is a bad sign as it indicates that many modern slavery victims don’t get the support that they need even if they qualify for it. As a result, they are left to struggle, making them an easy target for the county line gangs to lure them and continue exploiting them. This is a shame and the local government should do better to allocate funds and offer the needed support to child slavery victims.
Despite more people knowing how to identify child victims of modern salary and human trafficking, there are still many cases of child trafficking. And one of the main reasons why the cases are increasing is the manner in which local governments handle such cases. As more kids are rescued, the funds set aside are not enough to cater for them all.
Therefore, most child-slavery victims don’t get the help and support that they need, forcing them to accept offers provided by human traffickers. That’s why the Home Office and National Referral Mechanism have to improve their laws so that they can speed up things for this vulnerable group of people.