BLOG POST BY ECPAT UK - 13th May 2011 Labour Peer Baroness Goudie yesterday joined ECPAT UK and The Body Shop staff and celebrity campaign supporter Martine McCutcheon to hand over a huge petition at No.10 Downing Street calling for greater protection for child victims of trafficking in the UK.
The petition, launched in July 2010 by ECPAT UK and The Body Shop UK as part of their joint campaign to stop the trafficking of children and young people, has been signed by an incredible 735,889 Britons and is the largest petition to be handed to the Coalition Government to date. The petition calls on the UK Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking.
Every year, hundreds of children from over 50 countries – some as young as 11 years old – are trafficked to and exploited in the UK. While trafficking for sexual exploitation remains the most common form of child trafficking in the UK, children are also trafficked to the country for other types of abuse including labour exploitation, forced participation in criminal activities, forced marriage, illegal adoption and domestic servitude. Even children who are not trafficked for the explicit purpose of sexual exploitation are vulnerable to rape and sexual abuse because of the dangerous and hidden circumstances in which they are kept.
In recent years, the UK Government has issued a range of guidance to ensure a higher level of support for child victims of trafficking. However, despite these developments there remains concern that there are substantial gaps in this system of support and that these children are not able to turn to any responsible adult for guidance through the welfare, legal and immigration processes.
ECPAT UK and The Body Shop UK are therefore specifically calling on the Government to offer greater care and protection to child victims of trafficking by ensuring every child is provided with a guardian to look after them. A system of guardianship would mean that: • every child victim of trafficking would have someone with legal authority to support them, advocate on their behalf and take decisions based on their best interests. • every child victim of trafficking would receive the educational, medical, practical and legal support they need to help rebuild their lives. • every child victim of trafficking would be protected and prevented from facing further exploitation and harm from their traffickers.
Baroness Goudie said, “Children who have been trafficked will often have faced appalling situations of exploitation and abuse. They desperately need the support of a designated adult who, in the absence of a parent, can take decisions on their behalf and in their best interests and ensure they have access to safe accommodation, education and the medical, practical and legal support they need to help rebuild their lives. I thank all the people who have signed the petition and join them and thousands of others around the UK in urging the Prime Minister to provide these extremely vulnerable children with the support and protection they need.”
Christine Beddoe, Director of ECPAT UK said, “Today in the UK child victims of trafficking are still being put through the most traumatic and terrible experiences even after they have been removed from situations of exploitation by the authorities. We call on the Prime Minister to listen to our petition call for change and ensure that a system of guardianship for all child victims of trafficking is introduced as soon as possible.”
The UK petition forms part of a global three-year partnership between The Body Shop and ECPAT International to combat child trafficking. Petitions have also been launched in 50 countries around the world and the current global signature total stands at 5.9 million. The global total will be submitted to the UN later this year in a united call for action.