You know how half of each pair of socks you own always seems to mysteriously go missing while in the dryer? Well, the United Kingdom is experiencing a similar problem across the country, only instead of socks, they’re losing children. A recent study found that 55% of child trafficking victims in the U.K. who are identified and rescued eventually go missing. And I guarantee they’re not ending up in the same magical place as your missing socks.
The U.K. is suffering from a guardianship crisis when it comes to trafficked children, namely, that trafficked kids have no guardian and the government isn’t providing a good one. One government-run home which lost 77 kids in three years turned out to be a front for a trafficking ring. And Afghan children trafficked to the U.K. have been leaking out of the country faster than BP oil into the Gulf of Mexico. But an issue which before seemed to maybe be a failure of just a handful of agencies now looks to be a system-wide breakdown.
The Home Office’s Centre for Exploitation and Online Protection reviewed several local authorities who serve trafficked children and found that over half the kids who are brought in slip through some rather gaping cracks. There are a number of reasons child trafficking victims get lost: they are re-trafficked by the agency or someone else, they run away out of fear of the trafficker, they are deported, or they run back to the trafficker, especially in cases where the trafficker was a boyfriend first.
According to a recent opinion poll regarding this research, 44% of British adults think they way the government is dealing with child trafficking victims is unacceptable. Really? Only 44%? That means over half of British citizens aren’t concerned that their government is losing most of the children it rescues from slavery. Can that many people really be ok with the idea of a children’s shelter acting as a front for a child trafficking ring? Or the government deporting children who have been enslaved in the U.K. back to war zones? I have to believe the poll response is based on denial that child trafficking exists rather than callous indifference to the suffering of hundreds or even thousands of children.
The U.K. needs to get their act together, and you can tell them to start by stopping the deportation of trafficked children back to Afghanistan. You can also sign the petition created by ECPAT UK and the Body Shop to ask the government to create stronger guardianship guidelines and more comprehensive services for trafficked children.
Photo credit: xavi talleda