5 Protection |
of support services for victims
139. In its Report into Human Trafficking in October
2006, our sister Committee, the Joint Committee on Human Rights,
concluded: "there is clearly insufficient capacity in the
system to provide shelter and specialist support services for
the [victims] who need them, and we urge that capacity be expanded
as a matter of priority."
The evidence we received was that the situation has not altered
140. The Poppy Project remains the sole UK Government-funded
dedicated service for women trafficked into sexual exploitation.
The Poppy Project is able to provide accommodation and support
services (healthcare, counselling, legal advice) for up to 35
women and it has an outreach service offering support to those
whom it cannot house. Of the 1146 women referred to the Poppy
Project for help between March 2003 and February 2009, 215 received
full support (ie accommodation plus other services) and 208 were
helped through the outreach service.
The Government has recently (on 24 March 2009) announced a further
grant of £3.7 million over the next two years to the Poppy
project, part of which will be used to expand supported accommodation
in London, Sheffield and Cardiff for victims of sex trafficking
and domestic servitude.
We asked the Poppy Project about any similar services outside
London and were told of a group in Scotland called TARA, which
is run jointly by Glasgow City Council and the Strathclyde Police.
Apart from this, the Poppy Project mentioned an umbrella group,
CHASTE, which brought together churches offering support and accommodation
to victims of sex trafficking, and some women's aid groups that
housed victims in women's refuges and provided what support they
could. In the Poppy Project's view, outside London there was a
lack of groups who could provide the mental health support and
legal advice needed by women trafficked into sexual exploitation.
There were also significant regional variations: there was some
effort to provide support in South West England, in Leeds and
elsewhere in Northern England, but little or nothing elsewhere.
Moreover, though their willingness to help was not in doubt, the
church and women's aid groups suffered acutely from a lack of
141. The situation for victims of forced labour,
including migrant domestic workers, is even worse: until the Government's
announcement in March of extra funding for the Poppy Project,
there was no dedicated accommodation for such victims. Kalayaan
told us that it often had to ask church groups for emergency accommodation
for domestic workers who hadby definitionlost their
home in fleeing their employer.
The Gangmasters Licensing Authority also had to work with charities,
migrant worker groups and churches to ensure support for workers
when a gangmaster's licence was revoked. The Authority told us
that before taking action against a company, it completed a community
impact assessment including such issues as the size of the workforce,
the nationality of the workers, and whether they would need emergency
housing. It assured us: "we do not want as an unintended
consequence of our actions to make the immediate situation worse
for the workers."
The Authority said that occasionally it was able to obtain help
from other organisations in resettling workers, giving the example
of an operation that led to the closure of a company providing
labour to the food processing and packaging industry, during which
a supermarket and a packaging company were able to help 138 Polish
workers, the entire workforce, into temporary direct employment.
142. We were told that, according to the Government's
own estimates (in its impact assessment on the ratification of
the Council of Europe Convention on trafficking), the number of
referrals of suspected victims per year would considerably exceed
the number of places available in safe accommodation.
143. We asked our witnesses for examples of best
practice in the provision of support services for victims of trafficking.
The Netherlands and Belgium were frequently cited as models of
good practice, though there was also criticism of some aspects
of their treatment of victims, such as the block on victims claiming
asylum in the Netherlands.
144. It is clear
that not allpossibly a minorityof recovered victims
are provided with safe accommodation. Even fewer appear to be
given psychological help or legal advice or, in the case of those
clearly entitled to work in the UK, assistance in obtaining another
job. What support there is appears to be concentrated in London.
We agree with our witnesses that there is an urgent need for more
accommodation and other support services, especially outside London
and for those trafficked into forced labour.
However, without a better estimate of the scale of trafficking
in the UK, it is difficult to determine what extra services are
needed and where.
145. In contrast to the situation with adults, local
authorities have the duty to ensure accommodation for children
rescued from traffickers. However, despite Home Office guidance
that children must always be dealt with following normal childcare
policies and procedures, there is evidence that victims of trafficking
are not. We were told that child trafficking victims were rarely
provided with a full needs assessment, though this was standard
for a British child, and they were routinely accommodated in hostels
rather than foster care even when severely traumatised and still
at risk. Moreover,
while their physical health needs were usually quickly met, it
was often far more difficult for them to access mental healthcare
because of long waiting lists.
The NSPCC suggested "some practitioners consider that migrant
children have a lesser entitlement to protection", adding
that worries about the cost of providing care were a disincentive
for local authorities to identify children as trafficking victims
at all. In general,
our witnesses felt that support services for such children were
'patchy', with a small number of local areas providing models
of good practice but no discernible pattern.
|A young woman was trafficked to the UK, aged 15, and placed in hostel accommodation and then in shared housing with other young women, none of whom had a common language. She was swiftly traced by her trafficker who forced her back into prostitution and prevented her from attending college or finding a normal job. Eventually, social services and the police intervened, having been aware of the situation for some time. The victim now has the right to remain permanently in the UK but, having spent 5 years in the country, is still illiterate in English.
146. Most worryingly, we had seen media reports that
significant numbers of possible child trafficking victims were
going missing from local authority care. ECPAT UK told us that
the figure of 400 children reported by the media was derived from
a request under the Freedom of Information Act to which only a
small number of authorities had responded, so the national figure
was likely to be much higher. ECPAT UK's own small-scale research
covering five local authorities in the North East and North West
of England and the West Midlands had found that of 80 children
known or suspected to have been trafficked over an 18-month period,
56% had gone missing from local authority care, without anyone
being able to discover where they had gone.
The ADCS reported that colleagues in Kent in particular had reported
a significant percentage of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
going missing from their care.
ECPAT UK's study noted that the majority of children who go missing
do so within the first week of going into care, and it summarised
the circumstances as follows:
Many of the children in this study who went missing
had not been investigated, identified or recorded as a victim
of trafficking at the time they went missing. As these children
have never been traced we cannot know what has happened to them,
why they went missing or whether they are still in the UK. We
know from missing children who have found their way back to social
services care that there are two common scenarios for trafficked
children in local authority care. The first is that, even after
a child registers with social services, the trafficker still has
control of the child and seeks to remove the child from the area
as soon as possible. The second common scenario is that the child
runs away from care out of fear of being found by the trafficker.
Without financial resources or identity documents, the child is
then at risk of further abuse or exploitation.
147. CEOP confirmed the scale of the problem. Of
the 330 children studied in CEOP's child trafficking scoping exercise
in 2007, up to half had gone missing by the time that CEOP carried
out its work.
However, CEOP and the ADCS said it was likely that a number of
the 'missing' children might have moved to another local authority
area and been taken into care there, perhaps using a different
name and a different background story.
ECPAT's Missing Out study provides examples of children
moving around the country in this way.
In response to a Written Parliamentary Question, we were told:
"The number of asylum-seeking children who went
missing from care for 24 hours or more, in each of the years ending
March 2003 to 2007, was as follows:
The Minister added: "Some of these may have subsequently
returned to care", but gave no figures for this.
It is not clear whether anyone knows how many, if any, returned
to care. The ADCS suggested it was probably reasonable to conclude
that every year between 10 and 20 young people disappeared completely.
Subsequently, there have been newspaper reports of 77 Chinese
children going missing from a single local authority home in Hillingdon
within the last three years.
148. We had assumed that the National Register for Unaccompanied
Children might help to identify the children who moved from one
local authority area to another. The National Register is a database
providing information about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children
to statutory authorities. Local authorities are able to see information
only on children in their area, but if a cross-match is identified
with a child missing from another local authority then the register
gives a contact name and location. The ADCS said it was sometimes
possible to track a child through the Register though not always;
but it thought the situation was better than it had been before
the Register was set up.
CEOP believed local authorities were not sufficiently aware of
the Register and data was not added to it regularly, thus limiting
its usefulness. CEOP suggested that local authority officials
needed more training.
We note that the effectiveness of the Register depends on whether
the child gives the same information to the second authority that
takes him or her into care as to the first. This appears often
not to happen.
149. We asked how so many children could go missing.
We were told that there were different types of placement for
these children, ranging from foster care, through relatively supervised
care homes to relatively unsupervised homes. CEOP said that sometimes
children (mostly those aged over 14) had been placed in relatively
unsupervised accommodation while a foster home was found.
These were not secure units but a 'protective' environment, so
children could just walk out of them.
Some of ATLeP's child clients had been placed in foster homes
at first but, at the age of 15 or 16, they were taken from their
foster parents by the local authority and placed in hostels with
other newly trafficked children and with young adults. This sometimes
put them at risk of being trafficked again because of their emotional
vulnerability and the lack of family support.
West Sussex Social Services established a safe house for child
victims of trafficking which was subsequently closed because of
lack of funding.
CEOP admitted it was not sure that there was enough appropriate
accommodation for these at-risk children.
150. Furthermore, ECPAT UK alleged that when trafficked
children went missing, the police and children's services did
not respond in the same way as they would if a British child had
gone missingthey did not follow the same recommended procedures.
CEOP told us that it was considering whether it could help the
UKBA to use biometric techniquesbiometric analysis of photographsto
help identify whether a child appearing in one local authority
area was the same child who had gone missing from another area.
151. We are
alarmed by the accounts given by our witnesses and reinforced
by anecdotal evidence of traffickers training children to present
themselves as unaccompanied asylum seekers in order to be placed
in insecure care, often near the port of entry, which the trafficker
can persuade or coerce them to leave. In effect, traffickers may
be using the care home system for vulnerable children as holding
pens for their victims until they are ready to pick them up.
152. While we
do not advocate the, in effect, imprisonment of such children,
we were appalled by the ease with which they can leave accommodation.
We recognise that one element of the problem is that many have
not been identified as victims of trafficking, but we are of the
view that no unaccompanied asylum-seeking child should be placed
in such a vulnerable situation: all are by definition young, inexperienced,
in a strange country, many will be unable to speak English and
have little or no knowledge of local customs, and some will be
traumatised by the events that led them to flee their home country
or by their experiences during their journey to the UK or by both.
Moreover, even those identified as victims and given foster care
may be placed in unsupervised accommodation once they reach the
age of 15 or 16.
153. ECPAT UK
told us that it had repeatedly asked the Government to look into
the issue of trafficking victims going missing from local authority
care, but a succession of Ministers had refused to treat this
group any differently from the other children who go missing from
care. While it is regrettable that any child should disappear
for a prolonged period or permanently from local authority care,
we think that the Government's response does not recognise the
peculiar vulnerability of trafficked childreneven when
these children leave care homes apparently voluntarily, in reality
they are being deceived and exploited or are in fear of being
kidnapped. We recommend that the Government carry out a specific
nationwide study into the number of possible child trafficking
victims going missing from care and how this number could be reduced.
We intend to return to this subject ourselves in an evidence session
to be held later this year.
154. Those working with child victims of trafficking
had an answer to the problem of ensuring children received appropriate
accommodation and care: the appointment of a guardian, with responsibility
for dealing with all the agencies involved in the care of the
childensuring enhanced foster care, legal advice, the provision
of qualified interpreters and physical and mental health care.
ECPAT UK argued that only this degree of protection would make
a child feel safer with the UK authorities than they were on the
streets or with their trafficker.
ECPAT UK suggested that the Netherlands provided one good model
of guardianship, but there were others.
The Refugee Council claimed that very few cases dealt with by
its Children section went missing as the victims were given the
support they needed.
In contrast, neither CEOP nor the ADCS was convinced that a guardianship
system would help to prevent children from disappearing, particularly
if, as was likely to be the case, the responsible adult was not
on the spot.
The existence of a specified person appointed by the local
authority to supervise the care of each child could lead to better
co-ordination and possibly the provision of extra services for
those in need of hard-to-access support. We therefore recommend
that such a system be established. However, we cannot see how
in practice guardians would reduce the likelihood that victims
would abscond or be kidnapped from local authority accommodation.
233 Para 155 Back
Ev 256, para 2.6 These figures represent a rise since December
2007 of 326 women referred, 47 receiving full support and 97 outreach
support: Ev 152-153. Back
HC Deb, 24 March 2009, col 10WS Back
Ev 274, para 1.1 Back
Qq 71-72; see also Q 200 (ATLeP) Back
Q 156 and Ev 119, para 10 Back
Qq 136 and 142 Back
Q 136 and Ev 219 Back
Ev 250, para 12 (Stop the Traffick) Back
See, for example, Q 70 (Poppy Project) and Ev 102, para 24 (Dr
Tomoya Obokata) Back
Q 57 (Poppy Project); Ev 98, para 5.1 (Anti-Slavery International);
Ev 101, para 16 (Dr Tomoya Obokata); Ev 164, paras 2.4 and 6.1
(ADCS and ADASS Asylum Task Force); Ev 185, para 15 and Ev 186,
para 21 (Amnesty International UK) Back
Ev 181 (ATLeP); Ev 113, paras E.1-E.3 (NSPCC) Back
Q 105 (ECPAT) Back
Ev 248, paras 3.3 and 3.5 Back
Q 108 (ECPAT) Back
Qq 85-92 (ECPAT) and Missing Out: A Study of Child Trafficking
in the North-West, North-East and West Midlands, published
by ECPAT in 2007 (hereafter 'Missing Out') See also Ev 143,paras
23-28 (Save the Children) Back
Q 476 Back
Missing Out, pp 20 and 5 See also Qq 101-102 (ECPAT); Ev 144,
para 31 (Save the Children) Back
Q 362 Back
Qq 362 and 387 (CEOP) and 476 (ADCS) Back
Pp 20-23 Back
HC Deb, 23 October 2008, col 513-514 Back
Q 477 Back
'Revealed: 77 trafficked Chinese children lost by home', Guardian,
5 May 2009 Back
Q 479 Back
Qq 400-401 Back
Qq 394-397; Ev 164, para 23 (ADCS/ADASS Asylum Task Force); Ev
207, para 11.1 (Refugee Council) Back
Q 391 Though Save the Children cited examples of children going
missing from foster homes and supposedly 24-hour supervised accommodation,
too: Ev 145, para 38 Back
Q 202 and Ev 181 Back
Ev 145, para 37 (Save the Children) Back
Q 391 See also Ev 246, para 6.5 (NSPCC) and Ev 247 (NSPCC and
Q 100 See also Ev 116, para H.4 (NSPCC) and Ev 206, para 8.1 (Refugee
Q 387 Back
Q 106 and Ev 105, paras 10-11 See also Ev 246, para 6.5 (NSPCC)
and Ev 146-147, paras 46-55 (Save the Children) Back
Q 107 Back
Ev 205, para 3.5 Back
Qq 362 and 393 (CEOP) and 478 (ADCS) Back