Fighting against child trafficking in refugee camps

We’re demanding a Brexit-proof system to protect child trafficking in Europe.

Teenage boy thinking

Our Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC) published a report today - Uprooted and Unprotected - which looks at experiences of children moving across borders that are at risk of being trafficked from Northern France into the UK.

The report calls for robust mechanisms to be maintained and developed to ensure children crossing borders will still be protected after Brexit.

Case files from 196 referrals to CTAC between August 2016 and November 2017 were analysed in the report.

The case files show that children:

  • were sexually abused in some cases
  • were subjected to violence from adult smugglers or traffickers and from police
  • slept alongside unrelated adults, or in rat-infested or waterlogged tents
  • kept weapons to protect themselves.

The report also highlights that children as young as nine had been moved thousands of miles across borders without their parents, and disappeared from camps with limited attempts from officials to find them.

Our stance

We're demanding that the protection offered by existing systems must be maintained and improved to ensure that children who’ve been trafficked, or who are at risk of exploitation, can be identified and protected, and those responsible for trafficking brought to justice.

Almudena Lara, NSPCC Head of Policy, said:

“Existing European mechanisms such as Europol, Eurojust and the European Arrest Warrant are vital for finding missing children and bringing child traffickers to justice. Countries have a legal duty to protect child victims, so the protections currently offered by cross-border arrangements must be guaranteed after Brexit.

“Additional arrangements between France and the UK to share information about their child protection concerns and specific health needs would allow us to offer better help to children once they’re located."

"The hardship, danger and violence endured by these children is heart-breaking, and we must listen to their experiences to learn how to better protect children from the harms of trafficking whilst moving across borders."
Charlotte Jamieson / CTAC social worker and report author

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.

Keeping children safe

CTAC worked with the Refugee Youth Service to locate and safeguard children who were believed to have been trafficked or at risk of being trafficked from Northern France to the UK. So far 68 have been located, while 128 are still missing.

This could be down to children using pseudonyms when fleeing their home countries; misspelling of names in official records; children having moved on to countries other than the UK; or children arriving in the UK but not being known to authorities.

The Child Trafficking Advice Centre offers advice to professionals who are concerned that a child may have been trafficked into or out of the UK. It has launched a workbook, to accompany the report, to help social workers to better understand the needs of children who’ve been trafficked or are at risk of being trafficked.

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)