With the UK on a government-imposed lockdown in an effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Catherine Baker from our partner organization ECPAT UK reflects on how child victims of trafficking are being affected.
Many of us may feel inconvenienced at being unable to leave the house, but for children who have experienced trafficking this restriction of movement can be incredibly retraumatizing.
ECPAT UK works to support child victims of trafficking in the UK, many of whom have said that not having the ability to move around freely triggers difficult memories of their traffickers exercising control over them.
During this uncertain period of isolation, being able to turn to a trusted adult for support is even more important for some of the most vulnerable in our society.
That’s why we’re calling on the UK government to meet its commitment to ensure each child victim of trafficking is provided with an independent professional adult guardian to act in their best interests.
Catherine Baker writes for Thomson Reuters Foundation:
Specialist advocacy and trusted relationships can have a huge impact on children’s futures. Five years on from the Modern Slavery Act, we still know little about what happens to child victims long-term. What we do know is that while vastly more children have been identified as victims, these children go missing from care at alarmingly high rates, more are being refused long term leave to remain in the UK, and far too many are still being criminalised for crimes they were forced to commit.
Had the guardianship support they were entitled to been in place, how many children could have been prevented from going missing in these five years? How many could’ve been prevented from facing criminal charges? Or prevented from ending up in immigration detention and being returned to a country where they face harm as an adult? How many would be facing this pandemic feeling less alone, with someone on the end of the phone supporting them through it?
For child victims of trafficking, the importance of having a trusted adult to turn to for guidance cannot be overstated.
A guardian with specialist knowledge can effectively help children navigate complex legal, housing, immigration, criminal justice, health and education systems.
As government immigration rules continue to change as a result of the effects of coronavirus, it is vital that child victims of trafficking are supported by an independent professional to ensure they are kept up to date on developments.
It’s in times of crisis that the impact of insufficient support is felt hardest by the most vulnerable. Five years since the UK Modern Slavery Act came into force, it’s time for the UK government to act to protect children. Join the campaign today.