ECPAT UK will help host heightened anti-trafficking activities at all five London Heathrow Airport terminals to mark the fourth Anti-Slavery Day (18 October) today and tomorrow.

Specialist anti-trafficking charities, including ECPAT UK, will team up with Border Force officials to raise awareness of human trafficking and support Heathrow staff and passengers to help keep vulnerable children and adults safe at UK airports.

According to ECPAT UK, many children and adults who have been trafficked pass through airports undetected by staff and border officials. Only last year, courts learned of the horrifying ordeal of a 10-year-old girl – profoundly deaf and non-verbal – who was imprisoned, raped and abused for 10 years after she was trafficked through Heathrow Airport on a false passport stating she was 20. The family of abusers were later convicted for their crimes – and only this week their victim, now an adult, won £100,000 compensation. 

This Saturday marks five years since the Prime Minister first introduced the Anti-Slavery Day Act 2010. During this time, awareness of the scale and complexity of the issues has grown, with this year’s United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre’s report identifying nearly 3,000 potential victims of human trafficking and 602 child victims of trafficking in 2013 alone. However, most experts contend that the statistics are only indicative of a much wider problem in need of urgent action. 

ECPAT UK has campaigned vociferously alongside community organisations, legal experts and thousands of public supporters for the UK Government, including border officials, to radically alter policies on trafficking and child protection that have placed many victims of trafficking, particularly children, at further risk. The Government has made efforts in recent years to improve its approaches, including introducing a Modern Slavery Bill and a review of the National Referral Mechanism. Yet many campaigners remain committed to calling for improved protection measures for children and adult victims.

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK, said: 

“Our airports are one of the true frontlines in our effort to prevent the trafficking and exploitation of children and adults. Anti-Slavery Day is an important opportunity for individuals, charities and public agencies to come together, learn and stand up to this horrific crime. We’re delighted to be working with leading human rights organisations and Border Force staff to ensure we take every opportunity to prevent trafficking at the initial point of entry into the UK.”

ECPAT UK, along with more than 80,000 supporters, is calling on the UK Government to introduce measures to protect children and help prevent trafficking.