Children forced to work at cannabis factories as slaves, warns charity

Youngsters around the country also face sexual exploitation and punishing physical labour

Hayden Smith
Saturday 09 September 2017 00:56
Comments
Criminals had turned a 1980s nuclear bunker in Wiltshire into a huge cannabis farm
Criminals had turned a 1980s nuclear bunker in Wiltshire into a huge cannabis farm

Children are being forced to tend cannabis factories and commit street crimes, a leading charity has warned as it raised the alarm over the hidden toll of child slavery in the UK.

The NSPCC said youngsters around the country also face sexual exploitation and punishing physical labour.

A team set up by the organisation 10 years ago to provide advice in child trafficking cases has received nearly 2,000 referrals, with babies among those reported as potential victims.

The NSPCC said the secretive nature of modern-day slavery means this number is likely to be a fraction of the true scale of the problem.

Exploitation for sex or labour and domestic servitude were among the main concerns flagged up in referrals to the NSPCC's Child Trafficking Advice Centre (CTAC).

Children being used for criminal exploitation such as cultivating cannabis or committing street crimes were among the other reasons for reports, according to the charity.

It said Vietnamese children made up a fifth of all those referred to the centre since it was set up, with Romanians, Nigerians and Afghans among other nationalities flagged to the service.

The NSPCC is calling for increased training among professionals, a global "best practice" approach to safeguarding of child trafficking victims to be adopted, and the creation of a single international database to boost child protection efforts.

Mandy John-Baptiste, head of the CTAC, said: "People don't like to think about the real age of the young person they're paying for sex with, why a child might be 'helping out' in their nail bar, or why their cleaner or child care is so cheap. It's an ugly truth to admit.

"This is a child protection issue and it's not going away. Professionals must open their eyes and be able to spot the warning signs, and work with other agencies so that we can jointly take action to prevent and protect children from this form of abuse."

Last month the National Crime Agency warned that modern slavery and human trafficking in the UK are much more prevalent than previously thought, with cases affecting "every large town and city in the country".

In 2013, research by the Home Office estimated that there were between 10,000 and 13,000 potential victims of modern slavery.

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "Many believe slavery couldn't possibly go on today, yet the problem is all too real.

"We must expose the dark underbelly of slavery that, sometimes, goes on right under our noses, and bring those responsible to justice.

"These are children who have been denied their basic human rights and are bound by their enslavers, who will force them into the most degrading, hopeless life imaginable.

"I urge anyone who thinks a child might be in danger to contact our CTAC team."

Press Association

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in