The number of trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children going missing from local authority care is a ‘national disgrace’ two charities have warned today.
A new report from ECPAT UK and Missing People found more than a quarter of all trafficked children and over 500 unaccompanied children went missing at least once in the year leading up to September 2015.
The report – entitled Heading back to harm: A study on trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing from care in the UK – also warned that many local authorities were failing to collect consistent data on these children, leaving them vulnerable to re-trafficking and abuse.
Chloe Setter, head of advocacy, policy & campaigns at ECPAT UK, said: ‘For too long, children who are at risk of exploitation, or who have been trafficked, have gone missing from care – sometimes repeatedly, sometimes forever. It is a national disgrace that this problem has remained neglected and these children rendered invisible by poor data collection and national coordination.
‘Heading back to harm has attempted to shine a light on this problem and, in doing so, has unearthed an alarming trend of our most vulnerable children disappearing; hundreds of them never to be found. We must not accept this as a reality any longer.’
The charities are calling for reforms to the child protection system including the introduction of a national independent child trafficking advocates scheme; child-specific training on child trafficking, unaccompanied children and missing; and better data recording by councils.