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Child Trafficking


Article 3, paragraph (a) of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons defines Trafficking in Persons as ‘the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs’.

Trafficking in the case of children

A ‘Child’ refers to children 0-17 years and adolescents up to their 18th Birthday.

The means (as defined above) do no have to be present for child trafficking so it is simply the movement of a child into and within a country in order to exploit them. Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim (whether or not they have been deceived) because it is not considered possible for children to give informed consent.

Children and young people are usually recruited by coercive or subversive means, taken on dangerous journeys with false papers and ID and, at their destination, they are kept in a controlled environment by means of threats or violence. Some children may be escorted by a person stating that they are a relative. Most children are trafficked for financial gain such as domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, benefit fraud, sweatshop work in catering or agriculture, illegal adoption and many more.


The child at the point of entry:

  • Entered illegally without passport or ID papers
  • Has false papers, goods and money not accounted for
  • Has no adult with them or to meet them
  • Is with an adult who refuses to leave them alone
  • Has no money but a working mobile phone
  • Is reluctant to give personal details

Once in the UK the child:

  • Receives unexplained calls
  • Has money from an unknown source
  • Shows signs of sexual or physical abuse
  • Has not been enrolled in a school or with a GP
  • Seems to do work in various locations

The child’s ‘sponsor’:

  • Has previously made multiple visa applications for other children or acted as guarantor; or
  • Is known to have acted as guarantor for others who have not returned to their countries of origin at the expiry of the visas


Identification of trafficked children may be difficult, as they might not show obvious signs of distress or abuse. Some children are unaware that they have been trafficked; while others may actively participate in hiding that they have been trafficked. Any child transported for exploitative reasons is considered to be a trafficking victim in line with the Palermo Protocol, whether or not they have been forced or deceived. This is partly because it is not considered possible for children to give informed consent. Even when a child understands what has happened, they may still appear to submit willingly to what they believe to be the will of their parents or accompanying adults. It is important that these children are protected too.

Potential victims of modern slavery may:

  • Be reluctant to come forward with information
  • Not recognise themselves as having been trafficked or enslaved
  • Tell their stories with obvious errors

If the victim’s trafficker or modern slavery facilitator is present when the victim is questioned initially, frontline staff must look out for non-verbal communication and body language between the victim and trafficker or modern slavery facilitator.

Victims’ early accounts may also be affected by the impact of trauma. In particular, victims may experience post traumatic stress disorder, which can result in the following symptoms:

  • Hostility
  • Aggression
  • Difficulty in recalling details or entire episodes
  • Difficulty concentrating

Child victims may find it additionally hard to disclose as the traffickers may have given them inaccurate information about the role of authorities, they may have had bad experiences with corrupt authorities in their home country or during their journey.

Help and Advice

If you are concerned that a child may be at risk of exploitation:

  • In an emergency contact the Police
  • Or contact Children’s Services on 0300 555 1384