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Immigration: Children

Volume 505: debated on Friday 5 February 2010

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the UK Border Agency keeps records of the number of unaccompanied minors arriving in the UK. (313611)

The UK Border Agency does not keep records of all unaccompanied children who arrive in the UK.

Border force officers remain vigilant in identifying any arriving child who may be at risk of harm. When an unaccompanied child arrives, the border force officer must be satisfied that suitable arrangements have been made for the child's reception and welfare in the UK before allowing them entry. The UK Border Agency works closely with the police and children's services and will if appropriate alert them to any concerns.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps his Department has taken to identify unaccompanied minors who are suspected of being trafficked. (313612)

The Government's response to human trafficking is set out in their comprehensive 2007 Action Plan, which was updated in October 2009 and contains a number of specific measures to identify and protect child victims, including training for front line staff.

In December 2007 the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Home Office published practice guidance, “Working Together to Safeguard Children Who May Have Been Trafficked” to help practitioners safeguard and promote the welfare of children who may have been trafficked. We also established with the NSPCC, a national Child Trafficking Advice and Information Line in October 2007 to support practitioners with advice on safeguarding vulnerable children believed to have been trafficked.

As part of our improved services for trafficked children under the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings, we have introduced a National Referral Mechanism, which provides enhanced procedures for local agencies to identify, refer and support all victims of trafficking early on, including children. Alongside NRM, we are piloting a child trafficking assessment tool in 13 local authority areas, to trial a process for local practitioners to assess cases of separated children who may be trafficking victims and to take initial safeguarding action and make a referral to a Competent Authority under the NRM.

From 2 November 2009, Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act (2009) placed a new duty on UKBA to safeguard children subject to immigration controls, including trafficked children and those seeking asylum. All UK Border Agency staff at operational and case working grades are required to complete training on how to identify potential victims of trafficking, which contains specific sections on the features of child trafficking.

Updated multi agency guidance was issued on 10 June 2009 and 1 July 2009 on children at risk of sexual exploitation and those who go missing from care both of which highlight how trafficked children may be identified and protected from harm. We have incorporated child trafficking into the cross Government “Staying Safe” Action Plan and established trafficking sub groups at local and regional levels.