Wednesday, 19th August 2020

Statement from Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, on the death of a 16 year old Sudanese boy in the English Channel.

“Today we are all united in grief and outrage at the heartbreaking, preventable death of a child trying to cross the English Channel to reach the UK. Our thoughts are with all who knew him.

No child should have to risk their life because there isn’t a safe and legal way for them to claim sanctuary in the UK or be reunited with loved ones.

The lack of legal routes into the UK, hostility and dangerous anti-migrant rhetoric puts children directly in harm’s way – at risk of dangerous journeys and traffickers who exploit their vulnerability.

Dangerous journeys are made by those who have no other choice. There is a humanitarian emergency across Sudan and South Sudan with many refugees under the age of 18, survivors of violent attacks, sexual assault, many simply trying to be reunited with their family.

If the government is serious about ending these dangerous journeys and stopping organised criminal groups from profiting from those in desperate need, it must take urgent action to guarantee safe and legal routes for children to receive protection in the UK.”



Smuggling and trafficking are often conflated. Smuggling involves the movement of people across an international border, when a person cannot access a legal route to migrate. The transaction between the person and the smuggler ends on arrival at their destination.

In cases of human trafficking, the movement can take place through clandestine entry across international borders but it can also happen when a person enters a country legally or within a country where a person does not cross an international border at all.

However, there is a grey area between the two due to the inherent vulnerability to exploitation of people who have a precarious immigration status and cannot access safe, legal routes in migration.

It can be particularly confusing in cases when an individual may think they are being smuggled by paying an agent to enable them to travel overseas. However, the agent may deceive and exploit them - this then becomes human trafficking.

Further information and resources

For more information see our FAQs on child trafficking which contains legal definitions, facts and trends relating to child trafficking.

Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, [email protected], 07402 113 985