UPDATE: This campaign is now closed. Thank you to everyone who joined our Three Small Steps campaign and played a part in the success of this campaign. ECPAT UK continues to campaign for the full implementation of guardianship for trafficked and unaccompanied children.

The Three Small Steps Campaign was launched in 2007 by ECPAT UK and World Vision UK. Following a number of successful outcomes for the campaign, ECPAT UK relaunched the campaign in 2009 focusing on new aims and objectives, calling for safe accommodation, guardianship and the introduction of a National Rapporteur on trafficking.

Alarming numbers of missing children

The number of child victims of trafficking who go missing from local authority care is of major concern to ECPAT UK. In a report published by ECPAT UK in 2007 it was found that of 80 children known or suspected to have been trafficked over an 18 month period, 56 per cent had gone missing from local authority care in the North East and North West of England and the West Midlands.

In 2009, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre published a Scoping Report on Child Trafficking which indentified 325 children as potential victims of trafficking in the UK between March 2007 and February 2008. And this is only a snapshot in some local authorities – nobody knows the real figures. This report found that 23% of these migrant children are missing without trace - some of them are likely to have been re-trafficked.

In March 2009 it was reported by the Guardian Newspaper that at least 77 Chinese children had gone missing from a single borough in London since 2006.

What is being done?

To date, the Three Small Steps Campaign has been successful in ensuring the:

  • Withdrawal of the UK Reservation on immigration and nationality on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

  • Ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings by the UK, which came into force on April 1st 2009.

Although the UK Government recognises that human trafficking is a major concern for the UK and has launched an Action Plan to tackle it, much still has to be done to ensure that child victims of trafficking receive the care and protection they need.

Step 1 - ECPAT UK is calling on the UK Government to provide safe accommodation for child victims of trafficking.

Too many child victims of trafficking are provided with inappropriate accommodation which leads to children being even more vulnerable. To prevent children in care going missing the UK Government should ensure the provision of safe and supported accommodation suitable for child victims of trafficking.

Step 2 - ECPAT UK is calling on the UK Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking.

The need for a system of guardianship in the UK has been recognised by practitioners, child rights organisations, national and international bodies. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UK Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, and numerous NGOs and immigration lawyers have called upon the UK Government to appoint a guardian for separated children, including child victims of trafficking.

The responsibilities of a guardian would include:

  • To ensure that all decisions are taken in the child’s best interests

  • To ensure that the child has appropriate care, accommodation, health care provisions, psycho-social support, education and language support

  • To ensure the child has access to legal and other representation where necessary

  • to consult with, advise and keep the child victim informed of his/her rights.

Child victims of trafficking need specialist support. The UK Government should establish a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking, who will have a statutory duty to support the child in their legal, practical and emotional needs and to determine their best interests.

Read the ECPAT UK Briefing on Guardianship for Child Victims of Trafficking

Step 3 - ECPAT UK is calling on the UK Government to appoint a National Rapporteur on Trafficking - an independent expert on the issues to report on what is happening and recommend change.

Without an independent National Rapporteur, it is not possible to know if laws and policies are effective in stopping the trafficking of children or supporting child victims of trafficking. The government says that because it has already set up structures to combat trafficking that there is no need for a National Rapporteur.

However, in comparison to the establishment of these bodies, including the UK Human Trafficking Centre, the creation of an independent National Rapporteur on trafficking with a special focus on children will be one small step which will make a great difference in the way these agencies work. A crucial part of the way a National Rapporteur works is to report to Parliament to ensure scrutiny over laws and policies.