A charity has announced plans to open Britain’s first-ever safe house for child trafficking victims.
The launch of Unseen’s Children’s House aims to address the severe problem of trafficked children going missing after being placed in care homes or with foster families. As many as two-thirds of these kids go missing within the first three days, primarily due to their distrust of authorities and fear of their traffickers.
Related Campaign: Support for all UK victims of trafficking.
“Amid criticism that trafficked children are being failed and going missing from care at an unacceptable rate, Unseen is taking positive practical action and piloting this innovative project with Home Office support,” said Andrew Wallis, chief executive of anti-slavery charity Unseen.
Unseen’s Children’s House will have 24-hour security, as well as protective measures including CCTV cameras, panic buttons, and a mobile phone ban.
Thomson Reuters Foundation reports:
The safe house is staffed by specialist social workers and volunteer parents to make the children feel like they are in a home rather than an institution, and will offer academic lessons as well as activities and clubs outside the house, Unseen said.
“The enhanced and tailored support it (the safe house) will provide to both trafficked and potentially trafficked children when they are at their most vulnerable is invaluable,” Britain’s minister for crime, Victoria Atkins, said in a statement.
At least 2,118 children suspected to have been trafficked – from girls being sexually abused and gangs using young people as drug mules – were referred to the government last year, up 66 percent on 2016 and the highest annual number on record.
Last week the Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Group, a coalition of charities, said that the government’s efforts to help trafficked children were fragmented and that rescued kids lacked the specialist care they need.
As Bharti Patel, head of the charity ECPAT UK, explained, part of the issue is that there are no clear guidelines in place.
“There are no commonly agreed safety and protection standards across the UK for the placement of children who are suspected or known to be trafficked,” he said.
“A child should never feel punished or overly restricted by measures taken to help keep them safe in accommodation.”