Belfast ‘a child trafficking hub’

Human traffickers are using Belfast as a port of entry to the UK, it has been claimed.

There has been one confirmed case of a child being transported in Northern Ireland, a report from the NSPCC said. Around 10 minors have been separated from their carers.

The joint research with Barnardo’s in Northern Ireland called for co-ordination between the agencies responsible.

NSPCC spokeswoman Mandy John-Baptiste said: “Practitioners in agencies responsible for children and young people in Northern Ireland must be aware of the needs of trafficked children.

“Trafficking is another form of child abuse. Police, social services, health services, education providers and the voluntary sector must be vigilant to the potential of trafficking and work together to ensure there is a robust response to keep children safe.”

The report drew on police information to suggest that human traffickers are using Belfast International Airport as a port of entry to the UK.

Agencies working with asylum seekers and children have expressed concerns about increasing numbers of separated children and potential child trafficking in Northern Ireland.

Many separated children have lost family members and experienced extreme trauma and distress before arriving in the UK, affecting their mental health and emotional wellbeing, the paper said.

Child trafficking victims are brought to the UK for many purposes. Recent trends suggest that forced labour and other forms of exploitation are more prevalent than trafficking for sexual exploitation.

In 2009/10 fewer than 10 applicants claiming to be unaccompanied children came to the authorities’ attention in Northern Ireland. Most were 17 and the youngest 15. All were referred to Health and Social Care Trusts and two were later established to be adults.