Monday, January 15, 2007

Missing: 48 trafficked children taken into care

Above RomAlbanian Children, Many children are victims of child trafficking and are sent to Greece or Italy for begging

Forty-eight children illegally trafficked into Britain have disappeared while in the care of social services. More than half of the 80 children identified in a report on victims of trafficking have gone missing, according to an assessment of care provision in parts of the north-west, north-east and West Midlands.

The authors of the study of five local authorities warned that the 48 were only "the tip of the iceberg", and there are likely to be hundreds of child victims of smuggling who have escaped the radar of the social services. Many are thought to have been returned to the criminal gangs who smuggled them in - often for child "slavery" - or to have fled in fear that they would be recaptured.

The children were brought into the country to work as prostitutes, tend plants in cannabis factories or work as domestic servants, according Missing Out, a study published today by Ecpat, a coalition of children's charities. Others are believed to have been brought in for forced marriages or to work illegally in factories or restaurants.

Christine Beddoe, Ecpat's director, called for a national inquiry into the "deeply disturbing" findings. She said many social workers had told researchers that the immigration status of trafficked children was an obstacle to treating them as victims of human rights abuses. "From the moment children are passed into social service care they are defined as under 'immigration control'," she said. "Social workers are unsure of how to deal with them.

"One solution would be to provide residency permits or another form of visa to these children to allow them to stay in the country beyond the age of 18, when they are currently deported. This would enable social services to provide long-term care plans - something they find difficult."

Under existing legislation, the rights of children can be subordinated if they have entered the country illegally. Until now studies of child trafficking have tended to focus on London, where social service teams in 26 out of 33 boroughs have voiced concern about the the issue.

Researchers focused on care provision in Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle after information that criminal rings are smuggling children into new urban centres with regional ports of entry and large ethnic minority populations, where children can easily be "hidden".

Three-quarters of the children identified as known or suspected victims of trafficking were girls. However, the report stressed that more boys are now being smuggled into Britain to work in the underground sex industry.

All the children were aged between 10 and 17, and most originated from Africa and east Asia. Thirty came from China.

Source: The Guardian


No comments: