Caution on child trafficking review


The Children's Commissioner has said it would have to “consider” a possible review of how rescued trafficked children are cared for before agreeing to take it on.

In a bid to head off a Lords rebellion last night, Home Office Minister Lord Henley said the Children's Commissioner would be invited to review practical arrangements around how victims were kept safe after being rescued.

Tory peer Lord McColl had tabled an amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill to create dedicated "legal advocates" for trafficked children, a move which the Government had opposed as unnecessary last week in the Commons. The amendment had cross-party support but was withdrawn before a vote.

Children's Commissioner for England Maggie Atkinson said today: "The Office of the Children's Commissioner (OCC) noted with interest the House of Lords debate on the care of rescued trafficked children. Home Office Minister Lord Henley suggested the Department for Education may ask OCC to review this care.

"A request to review care has not yet been made. However if this was received we would give it due consideration, and as a small organisation would seek assurances regarding the independence of our work and the resources that would enable us to undertake this work.

"We have always been keen to promote and protect the interests of all children in England. Our reports on children seeking asylum such as Landing in Dover have made recommendations and led to meaningful changes in policy by various agencies."

The OCC is an independent statutory body with powers set out in the Children Act 2004 to promote the views and interests of children and young people and have particular regard to groups of children who do not have other adequate means by which they can make their views known.

Speaking in the Lords last night, Lord McColl told peers: "Between 2007 and February 2010, out of 942 trafficked children that were rescued in the UK, a staggering 301 were lost. In the last year the loss rate fell to 18% but this is still a completely unacceptable situation.

"It is an incredibly sad reflection on our priorities as a nation we should take such poor care of these incredibly vulnerable children. First of all they are kidnapped or lured under false pretences and trafficked to the UK.

"Then they are rescued and all too often whilst in the care of the local authorities they are lost, probably re-trafficked. I find it hard to conceive we are not doing more to help these children.

"This amendment is all about trying to ensure they receive proper levels of care when they are not lost."

Lord Henley promised the Government "would come back" to the issue.

He said: "I am content to ask colleagues in the Department for Education to invite the Children's Commissioner to review the current practical arrangements for rescued child victims of trafficking and to provide advice to that department and us in the Home Office.

"We will be in a position to come back to these matters at a later stage."