Tuesday, 30th July 2019

ECPAT UK has today launching a new campaign calling on the government to give trafficked children a stable future. Created in partnership with members of our youth programme for victims of trafficking, our new stable futures campaign calls for trafficked children's long term needs and best interests to be prioritised in decisions about their future.

Through our direct work with young victims of trafficking and 25 years' campaigning for their rights, we see firsthand that despite having experienced unimaginable abuse, trafficked young people are resilient and resourceful. Just like others their age, they have hopes and dreams for the future. But under the current system, they are unable to recover, live stable lives and plan for their future. 

Young people in this situation often find that identification as a victim is not the end of their ordeal but the beginning of a new one. Barriers to securing their immigration status, poor decision making and lengthy waits for immigration claims and other important decisions, as well as a lack of support to navigate the many complex legal and care systems in the UK mean that often these young people are often re-traumatised. Following difficult journeys to the UK, many unaccompanied children are victims of trafficking, but this often goes undetected by the authorities as there is no one for them to confide in.

These young people can be kept in limbo for long periods of time, alone without a trusted adult to support them. When they turn 18, much of the support they have received falls abruptly away, which can leave them destitute. At this point, they become more vulnerable to people who may exploit their desperation and many go missing from care. They may also face being returned to their country of origin where they may be met with further harm or even re-trafficking.

One member of ECPAT UK’s youth programme explained the need for our stable futures campaign:

If you have a document [proving your immigration status] it means you have the opportunity to do lots of things. You start living like normal people. Without a document you’re not like normal people. The Home Office tells you what you can and can't do. [When you have the right to remain in the UK] you’re not scared anymore. You can decide what you want to do and pursue your future.

The stable futures campaign aims to give these children their futures back by calling for the UK government to ensure that a proper long term plan is in place for every child, providing them with a secure, lasting immigration status if they need it. It asks that the Independent Child Trafficking service in England and Wales is extended to every unaccompanied child to ensure that child trafficking is properly identified and that these children are properly supported. These measures would allow each young person to live in safety in the UK if they need to, free of fear and further instability in their lives. It would allow them to focus on their education, future careers and friendships, just like any other young person.

This campaign centres the voices of members of ECPAT UK’s youth programme, in recognition of the need to ensure that discussions around trafficking and modern slavery are based on the experiences and perspectives of experts by experience.

We're calling on the UK Government to:

  1. Expand the Independent Child Trafficking Guardian service in England and Wales to all unaccompanied children as well as those already identified as potentially trafficked.
  2. Establish a process to find a long-term, sustainable arrangement for each child victim of trafficking, and provide these children with indefinite leave to remain in the UK if it is in their best interests.

Please take action to give all child victims of trafficking a stable future.


Press contacts

Catherine Baker, Senior Campaigns and Parliamentary Officer, ECPAT UK: [email protected], 0207 607 2136

Sinead Geoghegan, Media and Communications Manager, ECPAT UK: [email protected], 0207 607 2136