Child trafficking is a covert and growing activity throughout the world. The UK is being the destination of this trade which regarded as one of the most dangerous trades, where the children are exposed to extreme harm and causes terrible pain and trauma. The UN has defined the concept of children trafficking in its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (2000) as “the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, or abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments of benefits to achieve the Consent of a person having control over another person, for the purposes of exploitation.” And the UK government ratified it in February 2006 and uses the same concept meaning.
Children are trafficked for various reasons for instance, domestic servitude, sexual exploitation and social security fraud. There is also evidence which shows that the UK may be a stop-off point to other European countries. Immigration officers have the responsibility and essential role to play in anti-trafficking activities. According to some studied the majority of the trafficked children are from countries in Eastern Europe, West Africa and from South Africa like China and Vietnam.
Some of these children are may come in claiming to be adults seeking asylum others are instructed by traffickers to claim asylum as unaccompanied children. Some of them come with false passports. Sometimes young people may arrive accompanied by the trafficker (an adult who is not one of the parents). All these children are vulnerable and they become responsibility of professionals who meet them at first time of their arrival, to provide full support and protection. The main goal of children trafficking is for the financial gain, the question here why this activity is possible? There are many reasons, for example the poverty, discrimination, lack of education, grooming, dysfunctional families, inadequate local laws and regulations and the political conflict. All these factors are promoting the trade of child trafficking.
Child victims of trafficking at asylum screening units in the ports are facing the UKBIA at first time. The UKBA is in the position where recognition of such children can be done. Their interventions may be triggered by the particular circumstances of the case or by international intelligence about trafficking. The UKBA is likely to be a source of referrals to child welfare agencies. The UK Borders Bill will contain a clause to require the UKBA to develop a code of practice for Immigration Officers to comply with in relation to all their contact with children, including those who may have been trafficked or where there are other safeguarding concerns.
The applications for immigration status made on behalf of children may give rise to concerns that they are victims of trafficking. The UKBA caseworkers will not only be a source of referral but may assist with developing protection and care plans. Child victims may also be discovered in routine operations to detect and disrupt trafficking networks both in the UK and abroad. As well as providing referrals, the UKBA will inform child protection and care plans.
The legislation of the UK regarding the Child Trafficking includes: The Children Act (1989), Working Together to Safeguard Children and its supplement Safeguarding Children Involved in Prostitution (1999), the National Plan for Safeguarding Children from Commercial Sexual Exploitation (2001-5), the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 and the Sexual Offences Act 2003. In addition, the UK government ratified in 2008 (the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings) and came into force on the First of April 2009, by this Convention the UK has to join the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) for human trafficking.
One of the important indicators considering the children being susceptible to trafficking is their attempts to avoid any contact with any agency or authority following the advices of their traffickers. It is reported that some arrived children are e ‘disappearing’ once they arrive in the UK to some places planned to reach to. Also it is noted that some traffickers instruct and sometimes push children to apply for asylum as this will impart the child legal right of temporary leave in the UK so they will be able to disappear.
It sad to say that, trafficked children are not only deprived of their rights to education and saving from exploitation and abuse, they are also deprived of their right to health and to choose their life opportunities. Additionally children in the sex industry may become serious source of dangerous diseases as they are open to sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. This is an essential issue which must be taken in consideration. There is a hidden a problem that may be arise upon arrival of unaccompanied asylum children with false identity, this a problem represented by creation of criminal trends of the children, this is plus their feeling resulted from dissociation of their original families and community, will affect the whole life of those children seriously. The problem of those children sometimes is being very complicated, as those children are being uncooperative with local authorities, and prefer to remain with their traffickers. One of reasons is that, the children are being worry about their relatives in their families and communities especially if they know what has happened to them, and become afraid to go home.
There are evidences of child trafficking activities impacting all area of the UK. Children are being trafficked into the UK. There is no reliable data showing the extent of the children trafficking in the UK. There was low level of awareness amongst the practitioners and managers. Recently the government published the UK Action Plan On Taking Human Trafficking in order to restrict this covert activity and increasing the awareness of the children trafficking into the UK and within the UK. Children who suspected to be trafficked to the UK came from various backgrounds where the home countries lack the required security. The unaccompanied asylum children may claim asylum and then disappeared which come to the attention of the authorities that they are being trafficked. A considerable number of the children entered to the UK are being victims of commercial, sexual or domestic exploitation. Although immigration legislation is designed to promote the welfare of children and young people under the Children Act 1989, it is noted that the regulations and legislation are complex and legal advices on the individual cases are required. Child trafficking is a human rights violation and procedures to protect children from trafficking are applied where there is suspicion of child trafficking. During the assessments the child may unwilling to speak to the professionals which may be the result of the fear produced by sexual or emotional abuses. There are some indicators of the trafficked children, for example they may being semi accompanied and have no money but mobile phones. Sometimes they are disappeared for a period of time. As the suspicion is raised and the possibility of trafficking being clear to the evaluating practitioner, immediate action to safeguard the child must be done by referring the case to the children and Young People’s Department.
Unfortunately any investigation in this area is difficult due to lack of anti-trafficking legalisation, crimination of the traffickers and inability of the trafficked children to speak out. Moreover the lack of the collected data can be attributed to the low priority given by the governments. All above mentioned reasons makes it under legislated and under reported phenomenon. The effects of trafficking on children have been recognized on the psychological consequences should be treated as a medical issue. Traumatic actions had experienced during their journeys and it was apparent in most cases. Moreover some post-traumatic stress disorder are diagnosed. It was found that, most children in such situation appeared reluctant to take up the counselling, and they being silent and sometimes circumspect responses found in UASCs during the discussion of their backgrounds.
The UK Government introduced the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, where a new offence was placed in trafficking a person for purpose of prostitution. The Sexual Offences Act was introduced In 2003 and contained a legislation that make Trafficking for all forms of sexual exploitation a crime. The provisions that refer to criminalisation of trafficking are found under section 57-60 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003. A wide range of offences in England and Wales are covered by this legislation and it reforms the stop-gap offence of trafficking for the purpose of prostitution that found within Nationality, Asylum and Immigration Act 2002.
The point of weakness can be detected in the legislation of child trafficking represented by the difficulty to prove the offences and no enough evidences under current legislation. Also a gap in the British law can be detected where neither the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 nor Asylum, Immigration Act 2004 could be of value as both legislation needs a proof of the child exploitation inside the UK. And cannot be applied when there is intent to exploit the child even if child exposed to emotional, sexual and physical abuses when moved across the borders.
The UK government signed the Council of Europe’s Convention in March 2007 but unfortunately still there is no time table for ratification, which make the meeting of the standard which stated by the convention is not an obligation. These standards contained in the convention go beyond the minimum standards laid down by international law. The convention states the following rule, .any person irrespective of how they entered the UK, who authorities believe is a victim of trafficking, will be entitled to a period of recovery and reflection. It is well known that UK signed the United Nation convention on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. This puts obligations on the state parties to take the appropriate action to prevent children sale.The Foreign and Commonwealth Office express the commitment of the UK by the following ‘the UK is committed to stronger legislative measures to penalise the sexual exploitation of children’ according to ECPAT the British Government is .being isolated in the efforts done internationally counteract trafficking due to immigration policies that reduce supporting of victims of such situation.
One important point is the obligation to put the child interest first according to Section 9 of Children’s Act, and this obligation covers both police and social services, and exclude Border Immigration Agency does not have that obligation. This may leave the UKBA without enough restrictions, towards children welfare provision. There is no doubt that Child Trafficking is not only an illegal migration problem but it is a global human rights violation issue and a lot of efforts required in the national and international level.Furthermore, it is obvious that, the planning to provide safety and protection for a trafficked child is restricted by the lack of the legal status of residency beyond