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ECPAT report offers practical guidance for professionals working with trafficked children

Date of Publication: 
14 August 2017

New report authored by former Garden Court Chambers barrister Nadine Finch

ECPAT report offers practical guidance for professionals working with trafficked children

14 August 2017

ECPAT UK recently released a report on the steps that lawyers, legal guardians and child trafficking advocates in the UK can take to better identify and protect children who may have been trafficked.

The report, Lighting the Way, was authored by the children's rights expert and former Garden Court Chambers barrister Nadine Finch. You can download the 83-page report here.

ECPAT UK says the report offers practical guidance for professionals and authorities to improve the care of children who may have been trafficked, including embedding the National Referral Mechanism (the UK's official system for identification of and support to victims of trafficking) within existing child protection systems, consistently applying the presumption of age requirement and providing specialist training on trafficking and exploitation for all child protection professionals.

Section 6 of the report (see page 56) examines access to lawyers and notes that trafficked children are often involved in multiple and complex legal proceedings and may have to instruct up to four different lawyers: for example, one relating to the criminal proceedings, a second relating to a claim for asylum, a third in connection with decisions reached by the National Referral Mechanism, and a fourth in relation to any age dispute.

Nadine Finch finds that the distribution of suitably trained and experienced legal representatives is not uniform across the UK and tends to be concentrated in Northern Ireland, Scotland, London and Manchester. Training for solicitors and barristers in other regions is urgently needed.

Finch calls on the Law Societies and Bar Councils in England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to co-operate with NGOs in order to devise and deliver comprehensive training for lawyers.

Concerns are also raised in the report over the removal of legal aid for children who are not applying for asylum and where a decision has not been reached that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child had been trafficked.

The report recommends that legal aid should be available to all children who may have been trafficked from the point at which they are first identified until the time at which they are provided with a durable solution in both criminal and civil proceedings.

Section 8 of the report looks at the immigration status of children who have been trafficked, while section 9 considers the best interests of the child.

The report is the second in ECPAT UK's ReACT project, joining last year's Better support, better protection: Steps lawyers and guardians can take to better identify and protect trafficked children, which is also authored by Nadine Finch and which you can read here.

In related news, the National Crime Agency (NCA) reported last week that modern slavery and human trafficking is far more prevalent in the UK than previously thought.

Will Kerr, the NCA's Director of Vulnerabilities, said: "The more that we look for modern slavery the more we find the evidence of the widespread abuse of vulnerable.

"The growing body of evidence we are collecting points to the scale being far larger than anyone had previously thought. The intelligence we are gaining is showing that there are likely to be far more victims out there, and the numbers of victims in the UK has been underestimated."

Reacting to the NCA statement, Ryan Mahan of ECPAT UK, said: "Every year, more and more adults and children are subjected to unimaginable forms of abuse and exploitation in the UK.

"Despite this, victims continue to be denied access to the vital services they need to recover and rebuild their lives. Authorities must stop prioritising immigration control targets over the safety of victims, which leaves scores of the children we work with vulnerable to missing, re-trafficking and deportation.

"We are hopeful this increase in activity by the NCA will be matched by a Government commitment to reform the child protection system and place the needs of trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children first."