Friday, May 16, 2008

Pressure Grows for Guardians to Protect Trafficked Children in the UK

By Robert Booth

From the Guardian:

Leading politicians from the three main parties are putting pressure on the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, to halt the disappearance from care of hundreds of suspected victims of child trafficking.

The Guardian revealed last month that more than 400 foreign children vulnerable to exploitation in prostitution, the drugs trade and domestic servitude went missing from care around major British ports and airports between 2004 and 2007. But the government has rebuffed calls for a system of professional guardians to look after every suspected victim of child trafficking - a crime the United Nations has described as "a modern-day slave trade".

Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the Commons home affairs committee, which is investigating human trafficking, said he was "shocked by the number of children going missing". He added that a system of guardians to look after every child now looked "very attractive".

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, called on the government to drop its opposition and fund a system in which every suspected victim of child trafficking is provided with a guardian who "specifically looks out for them and ideally speaks their language".

David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said Smith should implement the Council of Europe convention on action against trafficking in human beings. It requires each child to have "a legal guardian, organisation or authority ... which shall act in the best interests of the child".

"It is disgraceful that this 21st-century version of trading in human misery is still taking place without real action to stop it," said Davis. "It is outrageous that so many cases involving the most vulnerable of victims have been lost."

The children's commissioner, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, and Ecpat UK, a coalition of charities including the NSPCC and Anti-Slavery International, also want the guardianship system brought in.

Local authorities have admitted they are losing the battle to keep trafficked children from falling back into their traffickers' hands. Child protection campaigners complain that there are no safe houses in England and suspected victims are housed in less-secure foster homes or council residential blocks. Advocates of a guardianship system claim it would ensure secure housing, education and legal support to stop trafficked children falling back into the hands of their exploiters.

The proposals are based on the Dutch system, which has €25m (£20m) a year in public funding.In Britain, local authorities have lost children from a dozen African countries including Liberia, Somalia and Sudan. The Middle East and Asia are equally well represented, with missing under-18s from Iraq, Afghanistan, China and India. From Europe, young Moldovans, Albanians and Romanians have gone missing.

Read the full article

No comments:

Post a Comment