ECPAT report finds no national process for identifying and recording missing child victims of trafficking

Monday 21 August 2017

The new report published by ECPAT’s ReACT project offers practical guidance for professionals and authorities to improve the care of children who may have been trafficked. Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court Chambers contributed to the report, written by Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Bristol and former Garden Court barrister Nadine Finch.

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In 2016, Europol announced that it estimated at least 10,000 children had gone missing since arriving in Europe in the past 18-24 months. ReACT research suggests that children are more likely to go missing when they are placed in hostels and B&Bs rather than in specialist foster care and calls for all children to be provided with specialist safe accommodation within 12 hours of being identified.

The report, ‘Lighting the way’, also highlights the absence of official statistics on the number of trafficked children who go missing in the UK each year and makes several recommendations including the compiling of official data about the number and circumstances in which children go missing.

The ReACT research identifies where ‘urgent’ training is needed for professionals to better identify and protect children who may have been trafficked, notably legal practitioners outside of Northern Ireland, Scotland, London and Manchester and criminal defence duty solicitors.

Some of the key findings:

  • Children who may have been trafficked benefit from legal practitioners who specialise in the representation of such children but the distribution of these services is not uniform across the UK and tends to be concentrated in Northern Ireland, Scotland, London and Manchester.
  • Research indicates that medical examinations are capable of estimating the maturity but not the chronological age of a child.
  • The removal of a right to free legal aid for children who are not applying for asylum and where a decision has not been reached that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child had been trafficked, renders children who have not yet been accurately identified as having been trafficked in a very vulnerable position.
  • There is an urgent need to provide training to duty solicitors who practice in criminal law, who are not presently identifying children who may have been trafficked.

ReACT is a partnership project between ECPAT groups in the UK, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany aiming to increase the capacity of representatives (guardians and lawyers) of child victims of trafficking to provide appropriate support and uphold the rights of trafficked children during legal proceedings in key trafficking destination countries.

Read the full report, published August 2017: ‘Lighting the way: Steps that lawyers, legal guardians and child trafficking advocates in the UK can take to better identify and protect children who may have been trafficked’

Shu Shin Luh of Garden Court Chambers contributed to the report regarding the potential effect of Brexit on work with children who may have been trafficked.

Shu Shin is particularly well-known for her expertise in the area of anti-trafficking and modern slavery and regularly acts for individuals in challenges to the decisions relating to the identification, provision of support and immigration status of victims of trafficking and modern slavery.


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