Open Letter to UK Home Secretary Calling for Guardians for Child Trafficking Victims



“Dear Home Secretary,

Child Trafficking Guardians – Immigration Bill Lords’ Amendment

We are writing to urge you to accept the amendment to the Immigration Bill on child trafficking guardians that was passed by the House of Lords at Report Stage on 7 April.

Children who have been trafficked are extremely vulnerable. They have faced terrible abuse including forced labour, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. This amendment will provide them with specialist independent guardians and ensure they receive the highest protection possible to prevent further abuse.

Child victims are particularly at risk of going missing from care and being subjected to further exploitation and abuse even after they have been identified. They find themselves alone in a foreign country where many of them cannot speak English and they do not understand the various systems and procedures that they must deal with. This is a terrifying experience. These children urgently need someone to speak up for them and their best interests. A child trafficking guardian under this amendment gives each trafficked child a designated person with specialist expertise who will have a legal responsibility and authority to support them in all areas of their life.

The Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings (Greta) has recommended that the UK introduce a scheme like the one in this amendment and the EU Directive requires provision of such a role. The amendment to the Immigration Bill echoes the responsibilities of the child trafficking guardians outlined by organisations such as UNICEF and the UN.

We note that this week, in a submission to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Equality and Human Rights Commission recommended the appointment of guardians for trafficked children among suggested actions to be taken by the Government to further UK compliance with the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

We support the Government’s desire to act firmly on exploitation in this country. We welcome the proposal for a Modern Slavery Bill but were disappointed that the draft Bill contained no provisions for trafficking guardians for child victims. The amendment to the Immigration Bill is an opportunity to rectify this without needing to take up further parliamentary time. The amendment passed with overwhelming support in the House of Lords with a margin of 98 votes and is widely supported within the charity sector and the general public. At such a crucial time in the fight against modern day slavery we urge you not to reject a clause that will do so much good for the most vulnerable victims of trafficking – the children.

We welcome the announcement of the trials of specialist personal advocates to take place this year. However, our experience of supporting trafficked children and campaigning on their behalf tells us that we need to go further, that this role must be enshrined in law.

By accepting this amendment you will bring into place a system that will help protect children from abuse and exploitation, ensure they can make their voice heard in the decisions about their care and future and support them as they begin to build a new life free from the trauma of trafficking.

For the sake of these most vulnerable children we strongly encourage you to accept the Lords’ Immigration Bill amendment on child trafficking guardians.

Yours sincerely,

Phillipa Roberts, Legal Director, Hope for Justice

Wayne Myslik, Chief Executive, Asylum Aid

Nola Leach, Chief Executive, CARE

Bharti Patel, CEO, ECPAT UK

Baljeet Sandhu, Solicitor & Director, Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit

Heather Knight, UK Coordinator, STOP THE TRAFFIK

Natasha Finlayson, Chief Executive, The Who Cares? Trust