Wednesday, 13th February 2019

New data from the UK's National Referral Mechanism shows there was a dramatic increase in the number of potential child victims of trafficking identified in the UK last year, raising concerns about UK authorities’ ability to respond to rising numbers of victims in light of potential reductions in support.

3,137 children were identified as potential trafficking victims in the UK in 2018, constituting a 48% increase on the number identified in 2017. Additionally, children represented a massive 45% of the total number of potential victims identified.

The data published by the National Crime Agency reflects the number of people referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the current system for identification and support for victims. ECPAT UK has long raised its concerns with this system, including its failure to support child victims and the significant limitations to the data that is collected and published.

Children identified as potential victims in 2018 came from a range of countries including the UK, Vietnam, Albania, Sudan and Eritrea. In 2018, the number of boys identified continues to be significantly higher than girls; with male victims representing 72%  of those identified, compared to 28% of female victims.

Identification of British children who are internally trafficked within the UK more than doubled on the previous year, making up 45% of all children referred into the NRM. However, this worrying trend comes at a time when the Government is in fact reducing support for internally trafficked children, through changes to the Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTA) Scheme.

This is why, with the Modern Slavery Act under review, ECPAT UK is pushing for all child victims of trafficking and unaccompanied children to be supported by an independent guardian to help them access their rights.

Catherine Baker, Senior Research, Policy and Campaigns Officer at ECPAT UK, said:

'This is another alarming rise, which is sadly still likely to be an underrepresentation of the true number of children affected by trafficking in the UK.

'Yet instead of rising numbers being matched by an increase in support, the UK Government appears to be rolling back on important commitments to children made under the 2015 Modern Slavery Act through changes to the Independent Child Trafficking Advocates Service.

'The latest figures should spark outrage and then concrete action, on behalf of these extremely vulnerable children. With the Modern Slavery Act under Review, we must act now to ensure that all children are properly protected.'

Please take 2 minutes to contact your MP to demand independent guardianship for all trafficked and unaccompanied children.