More than 50,000 people have signed an ECPAT UK petition urging the Government to recognise the particular needs of child victims of trafficking in the Modern Slavery Bill.

The ongoing petition calls on the Home Secretary, Theresa May MP, to take heed of the urgent need to prioritise children and create durable solutions for them by including four key measures in the Bill:

  • Measures to protect and assist all victims, including the creation of a system of legal guardianship to provide vulnerable children with an independent professional to fight for their rights

  • The establishment of an independent Anti-Trafficking Commissioner to monitor and improve the UK’s response to human trafficking

  • The creation of a specific crime of child trafficking and exploitation to reflect the severity of this abuse of children and convict more offenders

  • Protection for victims so they are not imprisoned for crimes they were forced to commit by their traffickers

However, ECPAT UK is urging the public to continue to voice its support in order to keep up the pressure on the Government during pre-legislative scrutiny of the Draft Bill.

In February, in written evidence to the Joint Committee on the Modern Slavery Bill, following an oral evidence session in January, ECPAT UK outlined why a system of independent legal guardianship is essential to protecting trafficked children and upholding their rights. We also highlighted concerns around the drafting of the criminal offences in the Draft Bill and the need for a separate offence of child exploitation, which currently doesn’t exist in UK law.

The campaign, launched in December with Walk Free, has already seen results thanks in part to the many thousands of signatures from the public:

  • In January, the Home Office announced a pilot scheme of independent advocates for child victims of trafficking – a positive move but one that doesn’t go far enough

  • In December, the Draft Modern Slavery Bill was published and included provisions for an Anti-Slavery Commissioner – but we still need to ensure this role is independent of Government and has the remit and resources to make a difference 

 “The response to our campaign for child victims of trafficking has been incredible and is already beginning to achieve meaningful results,” said Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns (Child Trafficking) at ECPAT UK.

“However, there is much more that needs to be done if we want the Modern Slavery Bill to be an effective tool to fight child trafficking and give real protection to its victims. Therefore, we urge the public to sign our petition and to share it with their friends in order to keep the pressure on the UK Government. This is a chance to really make a difference for child victims of trafficking who suffer some of the worst abuses imaginable – we must act and ensure it is not an opportunity lost.”