Fighting against child trafficking in refugee camps

We visited the camps in Calais to help protect refugee children from abuse

Teenage boy thinking

We made our first official visit to the Calais camps this week amid growing concerns that the settlement is being used as a stop-over point for international crime gangs who are moving children into the UK with the intention of trafficking. 

Members of our Child Trafficking Advisory Centre (CTAC) travelled to France to train volunteers from the Refugee Youth Service to help them understand what child trafficking is and to spot the signs of when a child could be vulnerable to this and wider abuse.


We've dealt with over 1,900 cases of child trafficking since 2007

Explanation: Between November 2007 and October 2017 the NSPCC’s Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) dealt with 1,925 cases of child trafficking. 

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. 

Find out more about our Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC).

See also Indicator 19 in How safe are our children?

View the trend graph for Number of children referred to CTAC (PNG)

Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC)

Offering advice and support for professionals worried that a young person may be a victim of trafficking.

Find out more

"Child trafficking is child abuse and we must do everything we can to safeguard vulnerable children, prevent it from happening and protect those who have been trafficked. Through our work at the Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) we know that working together with different agencies nationally and across borders is key to protecting children"
Mandy John Baptiste / Team Manager at CTAC

Spotting the signs of child trafficking

Signs that a child could be vulnerable to trafficking and wider abuse include:

    • a foreign national child has been moved across borders without parents or carers
    • the child is accompanied by an adult and the relationship is unclear
    • the child is showing physical and/or emotional concerns; inexplicable injuries, substance misuse, signs of post-traumatic stress.

A dangerous journey

Young people from a range of nationalities are being transported hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles across land and sea by crime gangs and smugglers. The journey sees them often subjected to and witnessing horrifying physical and sexual abuse.

We're concerned that children are then being moved from the French coast into the UK to become victims of abuse. This includes sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, labour exploitation, forced marriage and criminal activities.

CTAC believe Vietnamese children are particularly prevalent in the camps, but are being hidden from authorities before being moved into the UK to work on cannabis farms.

"Children are being brought to Calais by crime gangs on what is the final leg of a horrendous journey. At the same time you have other criminals roaming the camps seeking out children who have travelled to the French border. Both groups of children need to be quickly identified and processes put in place that will take them out of the hands of people who seek to make profit from young people’s misery."
Peter Wanless / NSPCC Chief Executive

Keeping children safe

Our delegation will also be giving advice to the Refugee Youth Service. This will include guidance on how vulnerable young children, who are being targeted once they arrive in the camps either with family or alone, can become more aware of the dangers they face from crime gangs and being preyed upon by child abusers.

CTAC started getting referrals of children who had gone missing from the Calais camp in April this year. They located the majority of these children in the UK.

Working with local authorities, safety plans have subsequently been put in place to prevent them being targeted and exploited by individual adults and crime gangs.

Gracie's story

Gracie tells how she was forced into sex work at age 11, then trafficked to the UK where later CTAC helped her claim asylum.
Read Gracie's story

Lam's story

Lam talks about how his desire to find employment in the UK was exploited by child traffickers, and how CTAC helped him.
Read Lam's story

Young girl smiling in a cafe

CTAC's Young People’s Advisory Group

The Young People’s Advisory Group helps young people’s voices to be heard. Find out more on joining the group:

information for young people (PDF)
information for professionals (PDF)

NSPCC press office

Contact our national and regional press offices for enquiries about our work or to request interviews.

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Child trafficking

Child trafficking is a type of abuse where children are recruited, moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold. 
Read more about child trafficking

Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC)

If you're worried that a young person may be a victim of trafficking, contact us for free advice and support.
Find out about CTAC

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