Quarter of children trafficked into the UK this year faced sexual exploitation

More than 50 children have been trafficked into the UK this year for the purpose of sexual exploitation, a report by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (Ceop) Centre has revealed.

The report analysed 202 recorded cases of child trafficking between the 1 January and 15 September this year, using referral data from the UK Human Trafficking Centre and the NSPCC’s Child Trafficking Advice and Information Line.

Of the 202 children trafficked into the UK, 117 were female and 85 male. In total, 35 of the victims were aged 10 or under and 18 between 11 and 13 years old. The majority – 106 – were aged 14-16 and the remaining 43 victims were 17.

While sexual exploitation accounted for more than a quarter of trafficking cases analysed, 48 victims from Vietnam, mostly boys, were trafficked into the UK for the purposes of labour exploitation and cannabis cultivation.

 A further 50 children from Eastern European countries were trafficked for criminal exploitation, including pick-pocketing, shoplifting and benefit fraud.

Of 67 African children trafficked into the UK, 29 victims came from Nigeria. These were mostly girls trafficked for sexual exploitation or domestic servitude. According to Ceop, children from western Africa were often smuggled into the country using forged documents or fraudulent visa applications.

Ceop chief executive Peter Davies said he hoped the report would give frontline practitioners a snapshot of the abuse that children are facing from trafficking networks.

“Child traffickers constantly alter tactics to evade detection so regular assessments are important to identify new ways of entry into the UK, patterns of exploitation and victim experiences – so that frontline agencies have the latest understanding,” he said.

“Ceop’s latest report provides an overview of the issue and the way this crime currently manifests itself. It aims to inform partner agencies, including police forces, the UK Border Agency and children’s services of emerging trends in child trafficking to ensure frontline responses are in line with the latest picture so that potential victims are recognised and supported.”

John Cameron, head of the NSPCC’s Helpline added: “The gangs who bring these vulnerable children into the UK are highly organised and ruthless. The trafficking is often carried out like a military operation with victims being taken through several countries and passed along a line of criminal ‘agents’.

“Even if the children are intercepted by the authorities and put into care they are frequently tracked down again by the people exploiting them and spirited away to a slave-like existence.

“As these latest figures show trafficking is a considerable problem which requires urgent action. A strong and co-ordinated approach from all the relevant agencies is needed if we are to tackle this dreadful form of child abuse and end the misery it brings.”