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Child trafficking: Scores missing from UK care homes

PHOTO: BBC/Getty Images

15 November 2016

BBC — Trafficked children and unaccompanied child asylum seekers are going missing from UK care homes at “an alarmingly high rate”, two charities have said.

Almost 600 children disappeared last year, with more than 200 still missing, ECPAT UK and Missing People said.

The charities called on the UK government and local authorities to reform the child protection system.

The Department for Education said it had commissioned “specialist training” for those caring for the children.

The two charities collected the latest annual figures provided to them by more than 200 local authorities across the UK.

‘National disgrace’

The study, which will be presented in parliament later, found 167 children – more than a quarter of all trafficked children in the UK care system – went missing at least once in the 12 months to September 2015.

It found some 593 unaccompanied children in the UK – 13% of the total number – also disappeared at least once.

Of those, 207 trafficked and unaccompanied children have not been found.

Charities say the figures reveal a “deeply concerning” inconsistency in identifying and recording information on vulnerable children.

They say the figures suggest the UK’s child protection response was “inadequate” and the system has left children vulnerable to being trafficked again and open to abuse.

The report also found:

  • London, the South East, East Anglia and the East and West Midlands accounted for 75% of all 590 trafficked children in the UK
  • Those areas also accounted for 90% of all 4,744 unaccompanied children in the UK
  • Councils in Thurrock, Hillingdon, Croydon, Kent and Surrey had the highest numbers of children going missing
  • The top three nationalities of missing trafficked children were Vietnamese, British and Albanian
  • Albanian, Afghan, Vietnamese and Eritrean children accounted for the highest proportion of missing unaccompanied children

Chloe Setter, from ECPAT UK – which campaigns against child trafficking – said it was “a national disgrace” that the issue of vulnerable children going missing had “remained neglected”.

The report had “unearthed an alarming trend of our most vulnerable children disappearing”, she added.

“We must not accept this as a reality any longer. Every child that goes missing is a failure in our duty to protect them from harm,” she said. […]

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