Children and young people can be trafficked or within the UK to be sexually exploited. They're moved around the country and abused by being forced to take part in sexual activities, often with more than one person. Young people in gangs can also be sexually exploited.
Traffickers often groom children, families and communities to gain their trust. They may also threaten families with violence or threats. Traffickers often promise children and families that they'll have a better future elsewhere.
Trafficking is also an economic crime. Traffickers may ask families for money for providing documents or transport and they'll make a profit from money a child "earns" through exploitation, forced labour or crime. They'll often be told this money is to pay off a debt they or their family "owe" to the traffickers.
- work alone or in small groups, recruiting a small number of children, often from areas they know and live in
- be medium-sized groups who recruit, move and exploit children and young people on a small scale
- be large criminal networks that operate internationally with high-level corruption, money laundering and a large numbers of victims.
Child trafficking is child abuse. It involves recruiting and moving children who are then exploited. Many children are trafficked into the UK from overseas, but children can also be trafficked from one part of the UK to another.
Children may be trafficked for:
• child sexual exploitation
• benefit fraud
• forced marriage
• domestic servitude such as cleaning, childcare, cooking
• forced labour in factories or agriculture
• criminal exploitation such as cannabis cultivation, pickpocketing, begging,
transporting, drugs, selling pirated DVDs and bag theft.
Children who are trafficked experience many forms of abuse and neglect. Physical, sexual and emotional abuse is often used to control them and they’re also likely to suffer physical and emotional neglect.
Child trafficking can require a network of organised criminals who recruit, transport and exploit children and young people. Some people in the network might not be directly involved in trafficking a child but play a part in other ways, such as falsifying documents, bribery, owning or renting premises or money laundering
Child trafficking can also be organised by individuals and the children’s own families. Traffickers trick, force or persuade children to leave their homes. They use grooming techniques to gain the trust of a child, family or community. Although these are methods used by traffickers, coercion, violence or threats don’t need to be proven in cases of child trafficking - a child cannot legally consent to their exploitation so child trafficking only requires evidence of movement and exploitation.
Modern slavery is another term which may be used in relation to child trafficking.
Modern slavery encompasses slavery, servitude, forced and compulsory labour and human trafficking (HM Government, 2014).
The Modern Slavery Act passed in 2015 in England and Wales categorises offences of slavery, servitude, forced or compulsory labour and human trafficking.
Spotting the signs of child trafficking
Signs that a child has been trafficked may not be obvious but you might notice
unusual behaviour or events.
Children who have been trafficked may:
• have to do excessive housework chores
• rarely leave the house and have limited freedom of movement
• not have any documents (or have falsified documents)
• give a prepared story which is very similar to stories given by other children
• be unable or reluctant to give details of accommodation or personal details
• not be registered with a school or a GP practice
• have a history with missing links and unexplained moves
• be cared for by adults who are not their parents or carers
• not have a good quality relationship with their adult carers
• be one among a number of unrelated children found at one address
• receive unexplained or unidentified phone calls whilst in a care placement or
There are also signs that an adult is involved in child trafficking, such as:
• making multiple visa applications for different children
• acting as a guarantor for multiple visa applications for children
• having previously acted as the guarantor on visa applications for visitors who
have not left the UK when the visa expired.