ECPAT UK today welcomed the Government’s announcement to extend “specialist anti-slavery teams” to be deployed at major ports.

ECPAT has long campaigned for working models such as Metropolitan Police’s Paladin Team - a multi-agency specialist team working in partnership to combat child trafficking and keeping children safe at all London ports, and have argued that the Government would be wise to consider how a unique model of protection and prevention of child trafficking could be developed across UK ports.

However, it cautioned the Government of the need to ensure that the new teams are a joint operation with the UK Border force and the police working alongside local authorities and fully trained child trafficking specialist, to ensure all potential child victims of trafficking are identified and protected at the earliest opportunity, decisions are made in the child’s best interests, and the crimes investigated and perpetrators prosecuted. 

Bharti Patel, CEO of ECPAT UK said: 

“Having worked closely with the Paladin team over the years, providing training and discussing challenges and risks to child victims of trafficking, we applaud the practices of the Paladin team in identifying and protecting many children from further abuse and in bringing the perpetrators to justice. 

ECPAT UK looks forward to learning more about newly proposed model. We are keen to work closely with the new teams in assisting the border force and police in developing necessary safeguards to protect children and target traffickers.” 

Bharti Patel, added, 

“The proposed Modern Slavery Bill currently lacks key measures to protect child victims of trafficking and must be improved significantly if authorities at the UK borders and beyond the UK borders are to actively protect victims, particularly children, prosecute offenders and prevent the perpetuation of these heinous crimes.”

More than 40,000 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. 

ECPAT UK’s campaign for a stronger Modern Slavery Bill calls for:

  • 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