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Child Trafficking & Modern Slavery

Child trafficking and modern slavery are forms of child abuse. Trafficking involves children and young people being tricked or forced into leaving their homes and being moved or transported to another place to be exploited, forced to work, or sold as property.

Children and young people are trafficked into the UK from other countries (e.g. Albania, Romania, Vietnam), and are also trafficked from around the UK. Children are trafficked for:

  • Working on cannabis farms or transporting drugs
  • Committing crimes
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Forced marriage
  • Benefit fraud
  • Domestic servitude (i.e. cleaning, cooking, childcare)
  • Forced labour in factories or agriculture

Boys and girls of all ages can be victims of trafficking and modern slavery, and experience multiple forms of abuse. Traffickers use physical, sexual and emotional violence to control victims, and children are also likely to be physically and emotionally neglected.

Traffickers often groom children and families to gain their trust. Grooming involves building a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with the child or young person so that they can be taken advantage of and exploited. The forms of relationship a groomer can build includes romantic relationships, mentorships, and relationships can be built via social media, messaging apps, on games and apps, or in person. A groomer will often give the child or young person a lot of attention, gifts, and take them on trips/outings or holidays. They may also threaten the child/family to gain control. Sometimes families might be asked for payments for a ‘service’, such as organising the child’s documentation prior to travel. Often the profit that the trafficker makes from exploiting the child will be explained as a way for a child to pay off a debt they/their family ‘owe’ to the traffickers.

Traffickers may work alone or in groups, and can work on a smaller-scale, recruiting, moving, and exploiting children from areas they know and live in, or can work as part of a large criminal network that is involved with high-level corruption, money-laundering, and a large number of trafficking and modern slavery victims.

Signs of Child Trafficking & Modern Slavery

Knowing the signs of child trafficking and modern slavery can help give a voice to children. A child might not be aware that they are being trafficked and might not speak out.

Any child could be a victim of trafficking and modern slavery. Identifying a child who has being trafficked is difficult as they are often intentionally isolated from services and from communities who could identify and protect them. It is important to remember that warning signs will be presented differently for each child or young person being trafficked.

It might not be obvious that a child has been trafficked, but signs could include:

  • Rarely leaving the house
  • Living apart from family or having limited social contact with friends and family
  • Living somewhere inappropriate, like a work address or cramped, unhygienic or overcrowded accommodation, including caravans, sheds, tents or outbuildings
  • Being seen in inappropriate places (for example factories or brothels)
  • Having their movements controlled or being unable to travel on their own
  • Lacking personal items
  • Consistently wearing the same clothes
  • Not being registered with a school or a GP practice
  • Having money or things you wouldn’t expect them to have
  • Being moved by others between specific locations (e.g. to and from work), which may happen at unusual times such as very early in the day or at night
  • Being unsure, unable, or reluctant to give details such as where they live
  • Fearful or withdrawn behaviour
  • Being involved in gang activity
  • Being involved in the consumption, sale or trafficking of drugs
  • Having their communication controlled by somebody else and acting as though they are being instructed by another person
  • Tattoos or other marks indicating ownership
  • Physical ill health, looking unkempt or malnourished
  • Physical injury, including the kinds of injuries you might get from a workplace
  • Reluctance to seek help, avoidance of strangers, being fearful or hostile towards authorities
  • Providing a prepared story (which might be similar to stories given by other children) or struggling to recall experiences
  • Inconsistent accounts of their experiences

Effects of Child Trafficking Modern Slavery

Trafficking and modern slavery can have short- and long-term effects, including:

  • Confusion and guilt over criminal or sexual activity they have been involved in
  • Distress and alienation, particularly if the child has been separated from their family
  • Deprivation of education and socialisation
  • Physical injuries
  • Developmental problems as a result of neglect and living in poor conditions
  • Mental health issues
  • High risk of prolonged periods of sexual violence, resulting in physical injuries, sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancies
  • Self-harm and attempts at suicide

Click here for NSPCC’s information and guidance on child trafficking.

Click here for the Pan Sussex Procedure on Child Trafficking and Modern Slavery.

If you are concerned about a child, please contact the Integrated Front Door (IFD) using the link below – 

IFD Portal