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Press releases archive


Report shows substantial increase in number of trafficked children

30 August 2013

UKHTC 2013 AssessmentThe number of children identified as victims of trafficking in the UK has increased for the second year in a row, according to a new UK Human Trafficking Centre report.

ECPAT UK, a leading children’s rights charity working on issues of child trafficking and child sexual exploitation, has called the report a welcome acknowledgement of the growing scale of the issue, but has warned that it is also an indication of the Government’s continued failure to make the UK a safe place for children.

In 2012 alone, according to ‘UKHTC: A Strategic Assessment on the Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2012’, there was a 12% increase in the number of children identified as potential victims of trafficking for the purposes of exploitation, a total of 549. Overall, the report identified 2,255 potential victims of human trafficking in the UK, up from 2,077 in 2011.

Given ECPAT UK’s historic warnings over flaws in the way potential victims of human trafficking are identified, indicators in the report raise further concerns that the number of child victims of trafficking is much higher than the report estimates.

The report has identified a number of widespread institutional practices impacting on the identification process, as well as social and cultural factors within the environment of abuse preventing victims from reporting their experiences of exploitation. ‘In the Dock: Examining the UK’s Criminal Justice Response to Trafficking’, a recent Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group study supported by ECPAT UK, found evidence suggesting that many trafficked persons have been prosecuted for crimes they were compelled to commit, while their traffickers enjoyed impunity.

Moreover, only 1,186 of the total 2,255 potential victims of trafficking were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2012, on which the Government relies for data to identify and support victims of trafficking. While this represents an increase in referrals from the previous year, only 402 were officially adjudged to have been trafficked, and thus eligible for protection under the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Human Trafficking.

This further corroborates ECPAT UK concerns that the Government, through the National Referral Mechanism, is failing to meet its responsibilities to protect children, both in the process of identification and after potential victims have been referred.  

For child sexual exploitation in particular, the report admitted that the “full nature and scale of the threat” of child sexual exploitation “is not yet fully understood,” citing CEOP’s 2011 Threat Assessment of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. That 89% of all UK national trafficking victims of sexual exploitation were children only reinforces the need for urgent domestic action.

According to ECPAT UK, the report places further pressure on the Home Secretary to make good on her promise to introduce a Modern Slavery Bill, with a ‘modern slavery commissioner’ responsible for strengthening identification, data collection and safeguarding procedures.

Debbie Beadle, ECPAT UK Head of Youth and Training, said: “We have seen time and time again children and young people who are victims of trafficking failed by the system.They may have come into contact with a professional, but due to lack of training they may have not been identified, leaving them vulnerable to further exploitation. Many frontline police and local authority workers are just not aware of child trafficking and do not identify victims.

The most prevalent exploitation types for children believed to have been trafficked were sexual exploitation 152 (28%) and criminal exploitation 132 (24%).

Child potential victims were most likely to be trafficked from Vietnam (103, 19%), Nigeria (78, 14%), Slovakia (43, 9%), Romania (39, 7%) and the UK (38, 7%). A majority of UK national children trafficked internally, 84%, were found to be potential victims of sexual exploitation.


For press enquiries, please contact Debbie Beadle, ECPAT UK Head of Youth and Training, on 07846 842738, or Ryan Mahan, Information Officer, on 02072 339869 or


ECPAT UK has campaigned for 20 years to protect children everywhere from child trafficking and child sexual exploitation. For more information about our work, please visit

About UK Human Trafficking Centre

The UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) is a multi-agency organisation led by SOCA. Its role is to provide a central point of expertise and coordination in relation to the UK’s response to the trafficking of human beings (THB).

Definition of human trafficking

The report defines ‘trafficking in persons’ as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, or abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments of benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purposes of exploitation.

‘Child’ shall mean any person under eighteen years of age.


Copyright © ECPAT UK 2015.

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Tel: 020 7607 2136. Fax: 020 7700 5435.


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ECPAT UK is the leading expert voice on child trafficking in the UK and we offer a comprehensive training programme focused on safeguarding young people from trafficking, modern slavery, and transnational abuse. To find out more visit our training page

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