In the King’s Speech on 7th November 2023, the government committed to introducing further legislation to prevent new and complex digital crimes, including online child sexual abuse. Following the passing of the landmark Online Safety Act 2023, we welcome the government’s continued commitment to protecting children online.

We expect ambitious aims from the relevant government departments now tasked with implementing the commitments made in this legislation. We also urge increased efforts to particularly target the rise in live streaming the sexual abuse of children abroad by people in the UK.

We are very concerned that during the speech the government’s ambition to implement measures in the Illegal Migration Act 2023 was reinforced, an act that sets out the most significant departure from the UK government’s commitments to uphold the rights of children.

The implementation of the Illegal Migration Act is act will:

  • ·    reverse the 2010 commitment by the government to end child detention, revoking the 24-hour time limit to detain unaccompanied children, to be replaced with limitless powers to detain

  • ·       render the asylum claims of any unaccompanied child arriving irregularly or with a fraudulent visa (a common feature in many cases of child trafficking) inadmissible, making them subject to removal as soon as their turn 18

  • ·       deny protections to victims of trafficking and their children such as access to accommodation and support or leave to remain, leaving victims in destitution and unable to support investigations and prosecutions of the serious offences committed against them.

The Illegal Migration Act also introduces wide powers to the Home Office to accommodate unaccompanied children, a practice deemed unlawful by the court since December 2021 in the case ECPAT UK brought against Kent County Council and the Secretary of State for the Home Department. This legislation profoundly undermines the duties in our child protection framework and if implemented, will create a segregated system solely on the basis of the child’s immigration status. It will also give rise to more unnecessary legal challenges.

Following these announcements, the Prime Minister appointed James Cleverly as the Home Secretary who will oversee these significant attacks on children’s rights. We urge the Home Secretary to reconsider the retrograde direction of his department and ensure all children in the UK are treated equally and their rights to protection and care are respected.

Notes to editors:

  1. ECPAT UK press contact: [email protected] and 020 7607 2136