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Child Trafficking

Trafficked children are some of the most vulnerable in the UK.

What is child trafficking?

Child trafficking is the recruitment and movement of children for the purposes of exploitation. Children are most commonly exploited for sexual purposes, exploited to carry out forced labour or criminal activity, or held in servitude.

How many children are trafficked in the UK?

There were 549 estimated cases of potentially trafficked children in 2012, though it is thought that this number is likely to be far higher due to the hidden nature of this crime. Statistics show that girls are more likely to be trafficked than boys and that children are most commonly trafficked from South East Asia, West Africa and Eastern Europe.

The services Barnardo’s provide

  • Barnardo’s is one of the very few organisations in the UK that provides direct one-to-one support to trafficked children through our three specialist trafficking services in London, Hampshire and Manchester. We also run a specialist fostering service in the South East that provides family placements for trafficked children.
  • Our practitioners work to meet the immediate needs of children, focusing on housing and health needs, as well as support around education and future planning. By building trusting relationships, we seek to help children to break free from the relationship with their traffickers.
  • In addition to direct support, our staff provide training and awareness raising sessions to local services so that they are better prepared to spot the signs of trafficking and support trafficked children.

Case study

Linh was 15, when her father discovered that he had cancer. He decided that Linh should be adopted by a woman he had met in Taiwan, who said that she would look after her. But this woman held Linh's travel documents and flew her to Thailand, to Russia, and on to Europe. She was held in a house in Germany with other Vietnamese people. Linh was told that this was a prostitution business, and that she owed them £10,000 for the cost of being transported from Vietnam. She saw tired-looking young women being brought in and out of the house, and she witnessed an older women being tied down and raped.

After some time, Linh was illegally transported to the UK in the back of a truck. She was abused by two men en-route, and contracted a sexually transmitted infection as a result. When she arrived in England she was taken to a house and told she had to work as a prostitute to pay back what she 'owed'. One day Linh managed to escape, by stealing some money and getting on a bus. She was eventually noticed looking very distressed in a bus shelter, and was taken to social services.

Child victims of trafficking can be unbelievably vulnerable and the fear they experience makes extricating them from the grip of the traffickers extremely difficult. These children need on-going intensive support if they are to have any chance of escaping the terrifying abuse they have suffered. Linh was lucky enough to be able to escape her abusers, and thanks to the specialist help she received from Barnardo's she has begun to recover and move on from her experiences.