The UK should introduce a ‘firewall’ between child protection services and immigration services to protect the rights of child victims of trafficking from abroad, according to two UN Committees.

The calls were made in new United Nations’ guidance for States on the general principles regarding children’s rights in the context of international migration, and paid particular attention to child victims of trafficking.

The two new general comments by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW) focus on the need for comprehensive and rights-based policies for all children, regardless of migration status, in countries of origin, transit and destination. They provide guidance for governments, including the UK Government, on how to meet their international obligations towards children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The comments include specific guidance for States on protecting children from all forms of violence and abuse, including exploitation and trafficking. They highlight how children in migration contexts are at heightened risk of abuse, trafficking and exploitation, and that restrictive immigration policies, criminalisation of irregular migration and lack of safe, accessible migration channels can exacerbate their vulnerability to exploitation.

Among the measures States are called upon to implement are ‘firewalls’ between child protection services and immigration enforcement, to ensure access to justice for children with irregular migration status who may have been trafficked or exploited. This highlights ECPAT’s long-standing concerns about the immigration approach to child trafficking and identification within the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).

The Committees also recommend early identification measures be implemented to detect victims of sale, trafficking and abuse, including ”mandatory training for social workers, border police, lawyers, medical professionals and all other staff who come into contact with children”, as provided by ECPAT UK via its specialist training programme for frontline workers.

ECPAT UK welcomes this guidance and calls upon all States, including the UK Government, to review their policies in line with international standards to ensure that all children on the move are protected from abuse, exploitation, trafficking.

ENDS

Press contacts

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK: 020 7607 2136, [email protected]

Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns, ECPAT UK: 07890 120834 [email protected]

Image credit: "United Nations Office at Geneva" by Falcon® Photography is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0