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1.4.33 Trafficking and Modern Slavery

RELATED GUIDANCE

Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (DfE, 2017)

Modern Slavery / Human Trafficking Victims: referral and assessment forms (GOV.UK)

Modern Slavery Act 2015 – Home Office Circular

Modern Slavery Duty to Notify - Factsheet and posters that explain what you need to do if you think someone has been a victim of modern slavery

AMENDMENT

In December 2017 this guidance was updated to include links to the following:

Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children Child Victims of Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (DfE, 2017);

Modern Slavery Duty to Notify - Factsheet and posters that explain what you need to do if you think someone has been a victim of modern slavery.


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Definitions
3. What is Trafficking?
4. Identifying Trafficked Children
5. Action to Protect Trafficked Children
6. Supporting Trafficked Children
7. Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin
8. Trafficked Children who are Looked After
9. Internally Trafficked Children
10. Further Information


1. Introduction

Trafficked children are coerced, deceived or forced into the control of others who seek to profit from their exploitation and suffering. UK-born children can be trafficked within the UK. Any form of trafficking or modern day slavery involving a child is abuse.

It is essential that professionals working across social care, education, health, immigration and criminal justice agencies are able to demonstrate an understanding of issues around trafficking and modern slavery and are able to identify children who may have been trafficked. Furthermore, everyone involved in the care and support of trafficked children should be trained to understand the particular issues likely to be faced by these children.

This guidance provides information about trafficking, the roles and functions of relevant agencies and the procedures practitioners should follow to ensure the safety and well-being of children who it is suspected have been trafficked.


2. Definitions

The definition of trafficking contained in the 'Palermo Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children' (ratified by the UK in 2006) is as follows:

"Trafficking of persons" shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of person, by means of the threat of 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.

Trafficked victims are coerced or deceived by the person arranging their relocation. On arrival in the country of destination the trafficked child or person is denied their human rights and is forced into exploitation by the trafficker or person into whose control they are delivered.

Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim, whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is partly because it is not considered possible for children in this situation to give informed consent. Even when a child understands what has happened, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they believe to be the will of their parents or accompanying adults. It is important that these children are protected also.

A child is defined in law as anyone who has not yet reached their 18th birthday. Care of Unaccompanied Migrant Children and Child Victims of Modern Slavery: Statutory Guidance for Local Authorities (DfE, 2017) provides that where the age of a person is in doubt they must be treated as a child unless and until a Merton Compliant age assessment shows the person to be an adult. Children’s Social Care Services should therefore only carry out age assessments where there is significant reason to doubt that the claimant is a child.


3. What is Trafficking?

Most children are trafficked for financial gain. In most cases, the trafficker will also receive payment from those wanting to exploit the child once in the UK. Trafficking is carried out by organised gangs and individual adults or agents.

Children who have been trafficked may used by their traffickers for:

  • Sexual exploitation;
  • Domestic servitude;
  • Sweatshop, restaurant and other catering work;
  • Begging* or pick pocketing or other forms of petty criminal activity;
  • Agricultural labour, including tending plants in illegal cannabis farms;
  • Benefit fraud;
  • Drug mules, drug dealing or decoys for adult drug traffickers.

Children may be trafficked from a number of different countries for a variety of different reasons. Factors which can make children vulnerable to trafficking are varied and include such things as poverty, lack of education, discrimination and disadvantage, political conflict and economic transition and inadequate local laws and regulations. Children may be recruited by inducements such as the promise of education, respectable employment or a better life, as well as more coercive methods such as abduction or kidnapping.

Many children travel to the UK on false documents. The creation of a false identity for a child can give a trafficker direct control over every aspect of the child's life. Even before they travel to the UK, children may have been abused or exploited.

Any port of entry into the UK may be used by traffickers via air, rail and sea.

In addition children of both UK and other citizenship are often trafficked between different towns and cities within the UK.

See Section 9, Internally Trafficked Children.

Trafficked children are victims of serious crime and this will impact on their health and welfare. In order to coerce and control, they are commonly subject to physical abuse including use of drugs and alcohol, emotional and psychological abuse, sexual abuse and neglect as a result of a lack of care about their welfare and the need for secrecy surrounding their circumstances.


4. Identifying Trafficked Children

Identification of trafficked children may be difficult as they might not show obvious signs of distress or abuse and may be ‘hidden from view’. Some children are unaware that they have been trafficked, while others may actively participate in hiding that they have been trafficked.

The following indicators are not a definitive list and are intended as a guide to be included in a wider assessment of the child's circumstances.

At port of entry, the child:

  • Has entered the country illegally, without a passport or ID papers;
  • Has false papers, goods and money not accounted for;
  • Has no adult with them or to meet them;
  • Is with an adult who refuses to leave them alone;
  • Has no money but a working mobile phone;
  • Is reluctant to give personal details.

Once in the UK, the child:

  • Receives unexplained calls;
  • Has money from an unknown source;
  • Shows signs of sexual or physical abuse;
  • Has not been enrolled in a school or with a GP;
  • Seems to do work in various locations.

For children internally trafficked in the UK, indicators include:

  • Physical symptoms indicating physical or sexual assault;
  • Behaviour indicating sexual exploitation;
  • Phone calls or texts being received by the child from adults outside the usual range of contacts;
  • The child persistently going missing; missing for long periods; returning looking well cared for despite having no known base;
  • The child possessing large amounts of money; acquiring expensive clothes/mobile phones without plausible explanation;
  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, truancy and disengagement with education.

Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim in line with the Palermo Protocol, whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is partly because it is not considered possible for children to give informed consent. Even when a child understands what has happened, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they believe to be the will of their parents or accompanying adults. It is important that these children are protected too.


5. Action to Protect Trafficked Children

If there is a risk to the life of the child or a likelihood of serious immediate significant harm, the Police or Children’s Social Care Services should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of a child who may have been trafficked. In some cases it may be necessary to ensure either that the child remains in a safe place or is removed to a safe place. This could be on a voluntary basis, or following the making of an Emergency Protection Order (EPO).

5.1 Referral and the Child Protection Process

Following a referral in line with the Referrals Procedure an Assessment will be carried out by the lead social worker and a Strategy Discussion will take place. It may decide that a Section 47 Enquiry should be carried out which could result in an Initial Child Protection Conference (see Initial Child Protection Conferences Procedure).

If the decision is that the risks do not require a child protection plan, then the child should be responded to as a Child in Need.

Where a child has been trafficked, the Assessment should be carried out immediately as the opportunity to intervene is very narrow. Many trafficked children go missing from care, often within the first 48 hours. Provision may need to be made for the child to be in a safe place before any Assessment takes place and for the possibility that they may not be able to disclose full information about their circumstances immediately.

During the Assessment, the lead social worker should establish the child’s background history including a new or recent photograph, passport and visa details, Home Office papers and proof and details of the Guardian or carer.

The Assessment should take account of any particular psychological or emotional impact of experiences as an unaccompanied or trafficked child, and any consequent need for psychological or mental health support to help the child deal with them.

With advice from their lawyers, trafficked children may apply to UK Visas and Immigration for asylum or humanitarian protection. This is because they often face a high level of risk of harm if they are forced to return to their country of origin.

Where the outcome of the assessment is that the child becomes Looked After, the social worker and carers must consider the child's vulnerability to the continuing influence/control of the traffickers. Planning and actions to support the child must minimise the risk of the traffickers being able to re-involve a child in exploitative activities.

  • The location of the child must not be divulged to any enquirers until they have been interviewed by a social worker and their identity and relationship/connection with the child established, with the help of police and immigration services, if required;
  • Foster carers/residential workers must be vigilant about anything unusual e.g. waiting cars outside the premises and telephone enquiries;
  • The social worker must immediately pass to the police any information on the child (concerning risks to her/his safety or any other aspect of the law pertaining either to child protection or immigration or other matters), which emerges during the placement.

Once a child suspected of being trafficked has been referred to Children’s Social Care Services for Assessment, the social worker should work in close co-operation with staff in UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) who are familiar with patterns of trafficking into and within the UK

The social worker must try to make contact with the child's parents in the country of origin (immigration services may be able to help), to find out the plans they have made for their child and to seek their views. The social worker must take steps to verify the relationship between the child and those thought to be her/his parent/s.

Anyone approaching the local authority and claiming to be a potential carer, friend, member of the family etc, of the child, should be investigated by the social worker, the police and immigration service. If the supervising manager is satisfied that all agencies have completed satisfactory identification checks and risk assessments, the child may transfer to their care.

Professional interpreters, who have been approved and Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) checked, should be used where English is not the child's preferred language. Under no circumstances should the interpreter be the sponsor or another adult purporting to be the parent, guardian or relative.

The child should be offered an Independent Visitor and, if they decline, their reasons should be recorded. Any Independent Visitor appointed should have appropriate training and demonstrate an understanding of the needs faced by unaccompanied or trafficked children.

In addition, unaccompanied children should be informed of the availability of the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme.

5.2 National Referral Mechanism (NRM)

Please click here to access the Modern Slavery / Human Trafficking Victims: referral and assessment forms (GOV.UK) which should be used refer victims / potential victims to the National Referral Mechanism.


6. Supporting Trafficked Children

Trafficked children need:

  • Professionals to be informed and competent in matters relating to trafficking and exploitation;
  • Someone to spend sufficient time with them to build up a level of trust;
  • Separate interviews - at no stage should adults purporting to be the child's parent, sponsor or carer be present at interviews or at meetings with the child to discuss future action;
  • Safe placements if children are victims of organised trafficking operations and for their whereabouts to be kept confidential;
  • Legal advice about their rights and immigration status;
  • Medical and counselling services should be arranged;
  • Discretion and caution to be used in tracing their families;
  • Risk assessments to be made of the danger if he or she is repatriated;

    and
  • Where appropriate, accommodation under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 or an application of an Interim Care Order;
  • The child should be offered an Independent Visitor and, if they decline, their reasons should be recorded. Any Independent Visitor appointed should have appropriate training and demonstrate an understanding of the needs faced by unaccompanied or trafficked children;
  • In addition, unaccompanied children should be informed of the availability of the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme.


7. Returning Trafficked Children to their Country of Origin

In many cases, trafficked children apply to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for asylum or for humanitarian protection. For some, returning to their country of origin presents a high risk of being re-trafficked, further exploitation and abuse.

Unaccompanied children should be informed of the availability of the Assisted Voluntary Return Scheme.

If a child does not qualify for asylum or humanitarian protection and adequate reception arrangements are in place in the country of origin, the child will usually have to return. It is important that this is handled sensitively and with assistance with reintegration which is available through voluntary return schemes. There remains a duty of care towards any child who is in the process of being returned to their country of origin.

A risk assessment needs to be undertaken into the potential risks a child may face if they were to return home. A safe reception arrangement needs to be in place with arrangements for education, health care. Different countries have varying arrangements to support repatriated children and the specific conditions of the relevant country should be investigated.

If repatriation is being considered for a child, the agency should work closely with the relevant local authority in the victim’s country of origin in order to ensure that the receiving authority has made provision for a continuous package of care.


8. Trafficked Children who are Looked After

Trafficked children may be Looked After by the local authority.

The assessment of their needs to inform their Care Plan should include a risk assessment of how the local authority intends to protect them from any trafficker being able to re-involve the child in exploitative activities. This plan should include contingency plans to be followed if the child goes missing.

Whilst the child is Looked After, residential and foster carers should be vigilant about, for example, waiting cars outside the premises, telephone enquiries etc.

The local authority should continue to share with the regional UK Visas and Immigration office and the Police any information which emerges during the placement of a child who may have been trafficked, concerning potential crimes against the child, risk to other children or relevant immigration matters.

Carers of trafficked children and those who work with them should be alerted to the potential high risk to themselves and the child they are caring for. Trafficking is a serious offence often linked to organised and dangerous crime. Contingency plans, additional safety and security measures should be discussed with those involved and necessary action taken.


9. Internally Trafficked Children

Internal trafficking describes the trafficking of children born, or normally resident in the UK, between towns and cities, often for the purposes of child sexual exploitation.

Internally trafficked children and young people can be coerced into recruiting other peers to accompany them when they are being moved from one location to another. The traffickers exert strong control over their victims and often entice them into committing offences such as theft or drug related crime.

Children who are internally trafficked are also commonly subject to physical abuse, including drug and alcohol, emotional and psychological abuse, as the victims are coerced into maintaining secrecy surrounding their circumstances.


10. Further Information

Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit (MSHTU) (part of the National Crime Agency)

NSPCC Child Trafficking Advice Centre (Tel: 0808 800 5000)

Refugee Council: Children's Panel
Provides support to unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.

ECPAT (Tel: 020 7233 9887)
UK children's rights organisation campaigning to protect children from commercial sexual exploitation.

UNICEF (Tel: 020 7405 5592)

Afruca (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) (Tel: 020 7704 2261)
Promotes the welfare of African children in the UK and is concerned about cruelty against African children.

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