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Child trafficking statistics

A compilation of the key statistics on child trafficking from research and official publications

February 2014

  • 372 children were referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) as potential victims of trafficking in 2012.
  • All sources of data show sexual exploitation to be the most common reason for child trafficking.

Introduction
National Referral Mechanism (NRM) statistics
UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) statistics
NSPCC statistics
Criminal justice statistics
References


Introduction

We do not know exactly how many children have been trafficked into or within the UK.

Trafficking is a covert crime and victims are often hidden making it difficult to gather comprehensive data on the number of children who have been trafficked.

Although UK agencies do gather information on the number and circumstances of victims, it is universally acknowledged that recorded statistics on child trafficking are underestimates (Centre for Social Justice Slavery Working Group, 2013; Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking, 2012).


National Referral Mechanism (NRM) statistics

The National Referral Mechanism (NRM) was set up in 2009 as a process for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking. It is also the process for capturing data on potential human trafficking victims in the UK. It is not compulsory to report all potential victims to the NRM and there are a limited number of agencies and organisations that can refer someone (known as first responder organisations) so figures are likely to be underestimates. Research by UK Human Trafficking Centre (2012) suggested 54% of victims were not recorded by the NRM in 2011.

  • The UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) received 1,186 referrals of potential victims of trafficking in 2012.
  • 372 (31%) of these were minors*.

* The NRM defines "minors" as children and young people aged 17 years or under at the time of the first claimed exploitation.

Gender of victims

Of the 372 referrals about potential child victims received by the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2012:

  • 211 were female
  • 161 were male.

Type of exploitation

Of the 372 referrals about potential child victims received by the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2012:

  • 99 were trafficked for labour exploitation (24 female, 75 male)
  • 79 were non-UK nationals trafficked for sexual exploitation (74 female, 5 male)
  • 44 were trafficked for domestic servitude (34 female, 10 male)
  • 22 were UK nationals trafficked for sexual exploitation (21 female, 1 male)
  • 1 was trafficked for organ harvesting (female)
  • 127 were trafficked for an unknown reason (57 female, 70 male).

Country of origin

Of the 372 referrals about potential victims who were minors received by the UK National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in 2012, the top 5 countries of origin were:

  • 96 from Vietnam
  • 67 from Nigeria
  • 25 from Albania
  • 22 from UK
  • 20 from China.

Source: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) (2013) United Kingdom National Referral Mechanism provisional statistics 2012 (PDF). London: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Includes the full list of countries of origin, a breakdown by First Responder Organisation, and a breakdown of figures for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.


NSPCC statistics

The NSPCC's Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) is a specialist service providing information and advice to any professional working with children or young people who may have been trafficked into the UK. The statistics below are from the services provided by CTAC between November 2007 and October 2012 .

  • Between November 2007 and October 2012 CTAC dealt with 785 cases.

Gender of victims

Of the 785 cases CTAC dealt with between November 2007 and October 2012:

  • 427 were girls
  • 327 were boys
  • 31 children where gender was not disclosed (cases where CTAC gave advice without knowing the details of the child).

Type of exploitation

Between November 2007 and October 2012 CTAC dealt with:

  • 176 cases of children trafficked for sexual exploitation
  • 160 cases of children trafficked for criminal activity
  • 71 cases of children trafficked for domestic servitude
  • 71 cases of children trafficked for benefit fraud
  • 49 cases of children trafficked for labour exploitation.

Country of origin

Of the 785 cases CTAC dealt with between November 2007 and October 2012:

  • 40% were from Asia
  • 34% from Africa
  • 23% from Europe
  • 1% from South America
  • 1% Caribbean
  • 1% Mediterranean.

UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) statistics

The UKHTC has gathered intelligence held by the UKHTC, information from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) database and information from police forces, the UK Border Agency (UKBA), the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) and non-government organisations (NGOs) to provide the first indication of the scale of human trafficking in the UK.

The 2013 UKHTC report found:

  • 2,255 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in the UK in 2012
  • 549 (24%) of these were children.

Gender of victims

Of the 549 potential child victims known to the UKHTC in 2012:

  • 310 were female
  • 208 were male
  • 31 gender was unknown.

Age of victims

Of the 549 potential child victims known to the UKHTC in 2012:

  • 70 (13%) were aged up to nine years old
  • 113 (21%) were aged between 10 and 15 years
  • 142 (26%) were aged between 16 and 17 years
  • 96 (17%) were children when the exploitation commenced but had since become adults
  • 128 (23%) were recorded as a child with no further information relating to their age provided.

Type of exploitation

Of the 549 potential child victims known to the UKHTC in 2012 the types of exploitation were:

  • unknown (174, 32%)
  • sexual exploitation (152, 28%)
  • criminal exploitation (132, 24%). Of those who were believed to have been criminally exploited, the most prevalent subtypes were cannabis cultivation (56, 42%) and benefit exploitation (55, 41%)
  • multiple exploitation types (37, 7%)
  • domestic servitude (35, 6%)
  • labour exploitation (18, 3%)
  • organ harvesting; (1, <1%).

Country of origin

Of the 549 potential child victims known to the UKHTC in 2012 the most prevalent countries of origin were:

  • Vietnam (103, 19%)
  • Nigeria (78, 14%)
  • Slovakia (43, 9%)
  • Romania (39, 7%)
  • UK (38, 7%).

Source: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) (2013) A Strategic assessment on the nature and scale of human trafficking in 2012 (PDF). London: SOCA. pp.21-24.


Criminal justice statistics

There are figures on charges, prosecutions and convictions for trafficking offences in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. However these are very low and do not specify if the victims were adults or children (see HM Government, 2012).

These figures do not include prosecutions for crime related to trafficking such as assisting unlawful immigration, rape, kidnapping/abduction, false imprisonment, threats to kill, causing, inciting or controlling prostitution for gain.

Also, UK figures do not include international investigations where the perpetrators for trafficking children into or through the UK have been prosecuted in the country where the child was from, a transit country or the perpetrator's home country.


References

Centre for Social Justice Slavery Working Group (2013) It happens here: equipping the United Kingdom to fight modern slavery: a policy report by the Slavery Working Group (PDF). London: Centre for Social Justice.

Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking (2012) First annual report of the Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking (PDF). Norwich: The Stationery Office.

HM Government (2012) Report on the internal review of human trafficking legislation (PDF). London: [The Stationery Office].

Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) (2013) United Kingdom National Referral Mechanism provisional statistics 2012 (PDF). London: Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA).

Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) and UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) (2013) A Strategic assessment on the nature and scale of human trafficking in 2012 (PDF). London: SOCA.


Contact the NSPCC's information service for more information on child trafficking statistics or any child protection topic


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