The Government are determined to eradicate child trafficking and later this year will launch their UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking, which addresses the prevention of trafficking, law enforcement and prosecution of offenders and providing protection and assistance to victims. We set out our proposals during recent consultation with stakeholders and obtained more than 200 responses. We are currently considering these which will help inform our policy development on child trafficking.
The total amount spent per year on operations targeted specifically at child trafficking since 2000 is not held centrally by the Government. However, Reflex, a multi-agency taskforce which co-ordinates the law enforcement response to human trafficking, is funded by the Home Office with £20 million a year, up to 2008. Out of this budget, several operations have been mounted to counter human trafficking in which children have been identified.
Operation Paladin, a multi-agency effort specifically aimed at identifying trafficked children, started at Heathrow airport in October 2005. Teams of specialist social workers, based at five ports and asylum screening units, working jointly with police and immigration officers, are helping to identify the particular needs of unaccompanied asylum seeking children who may have been trafficked and develop plans to safeguard their welfare.
Reflex has also funded Operation Pentameter, launched in February 2006, the first national co-ordinated police effort aimed at tackling human trafficking for sexual exploitation. Eighty-four victims were rescued, 12 of whom were minors. From the Government's consultations on their UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking, ACPO's proposal of setting up a UK Human Trafficking Centre will succeed Operation Pentameter. The centre will provide a more co-ordinated approach across all police forces in its aim to combat human trafficking.
Funding is also supporting the Serious Organisation Crime Agency (SOCA), which is bringing a renewed focus on improving intelligence and targeting those organised crime groups involved in trafficking humans. Its affiliate, the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP), is playing a vital role in preventing child abuse on the internet.
The Government's plan to launch a UK Action Plan on Human Trafficking later this year will focus on the Government's key aims of preventing trafficking, enforcement and prosecution of offenders and providing assistance to victims.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How many people, including (a) civil servants; (b) law enforcement officers; and (c) other officials, have been employed (i) part-time, and (ii) full-time on operations targeting child trafficking across the United Kingdom in each year since 2000. [HL7171]
Statistics for the numbers employed on operations targeting child trafficking are not held centrally. The deployment of government officials, police and immigration officers, children's social care and health workers is determined individually by government departments and by local service delivery agents.
Safeguards have been established to counter the trafficking of children at our main ports of entry. Specially trained teams of immigration officers have been established at 22 ports to deal with all cases of unaccompanied children and arrangements for round-the-clock referral to police and local authority children’s services, where that is necessary. Additionally, teams of social workers are being specially established at five ports and asylum screening units, principally to help identify the particular needs of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who may have been trafficked and to help develop plans to safeguard their welfare.
Immigration staff now have specialist guidance to alert them to signs that may identify a child as being trafficked and to what steps to take. Steps have also been put in place to improve the recording and retention of data on children entering the country. It will include information about the person with whom a child will be travelling and, in cases in which the child is unaccompanied, their photograph and full details of the child’s parent or guardian and sponsors in the UK will be recorded.
Data on the numbers of children and unaccompanied minors trafficked into the UK for each year since 2000 are not centrally recorded. To address this lack of data, the Government have commissioned the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to scope the scale and nature of child trafficking into the UK.
While there is no specific offence of child trafficking, prosecutions involving child victims of human trafficking have been pursued under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The most up-to-date information provided to the Home Office by the Crown Prosecution Service indicates that at least 12 defendants have been charged in three separate cases that involved female victims between the ages of 15 and 18. Of these, 10 were convicted and received lengthy sentences.
The Government have no centrally collated data on the number of children identified as victims of trafficking. The Home Office recognises there is an urgent need to improve its intelligence on this issue and for this reason has commissioned a scoping project in partnership with the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) to estimate the scale and nature of the problem including source countries. Children who have been identified as having been trafficked and who are considered to be at risk are looked after by local authorities under Section 20 of the Children Act 1989. The arrangements for trafficked children, as for other children in need in the UK, are matters for local authorities to decide based on careful analysis of the risks, needs and circumstances facing that particular child.