Modern slavery impacts men and women, adults and children. The Commissioner has therefore worked to ensure child victims of slavery, as well as children at risk of becoming victims, are properly identified and protected in the UK.
Last year 1,278 children were referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the UK’s system of support for victims of modern slavery. This number is indicative of a far larger problem, with estimates suggesting thousands of victims are not recorded.
Child victims of modern slavery in the UK are exploited for sexual purposes, forced labour and forced criminality. Protection of trafficked children, as well as children at risk of being trafficked, therefore remains one of the key priorities for the Commissioner.
In 2016 the Commissioner wrote a letter to the then Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime supporting enrolment of the Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs) scheme. The scheme provides specialist advocates for child victims of modern slavery.
Since then, the Commissioner has been engaging regularly with the UK Government to ensure implementation of his recommendations concerning child victims, as further detailed in a letter sent to Sarah Newton MP, the former Minister for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability. The Commissioner was therefore delighted to see that the Government recently announced ICTAs would be rolled out nationally and will continue to monitor the progress of this scheme.
The Commissioner has continued his commitment to protect unaccompanied and separated children, particularly those affected by the migrant crisis in Europe.
Following visits to Italy and Greece, the Commissioner put forward comprehensive advice to the Home Secretary, Foreign Secretary and the Secretary for International Development on how to improve protections in Europe, in particular for unaccompanied minors.
In late 2016 the Government published guidance on the implementation of Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 in France. Being concerned with the limitations of the initial criteria for transfers, the Commissioner wrote a letter to the then Immigration Minister asking for the criteria to be amended. He also published a statement highlighting the importance of ensuring that children are protected. In March 2017 the Home Office published a policy statement that amended the criteria for transfers under Section 67, making it much wider and more encompassing than before.