Modern slavery trend shows UK children are prime targets
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has revealed that the number of UK-born children exploited for sex-trafficking nearly doubled in 2013.
The NCA data shows 56 children from the UK were seen as potential abuse victims of sex-trafficking in 2013 - an increase of 155% on the previous year.
The agency also found the number of foreign children facing potential sex-trafficking abuse increased by 11%.
Most young victims of trafficking come from Vietnam, followed by the UK and then Albania.
According to Home Office Minister, Karen Bradley, the NCA is leading an enhanced and co-ordinated response to targeting trafficking gangs.
“We are increasing protection for victims, and we are strengthening legislation through a modern slavery bill. The figures are unlikely to show the full scale of modern slavery nor the human suffering behind each statistic.
"The bill will send the strongest possible message to criminals that if you are involved in this disgusting trade in human beings, you will be arrested, you will be prosecuted and you will be locked up," said the Minister.
Researchers at the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), where charities and trafficking victims are referred to, also found 1,746 people from 112 different countries were possible victims of trafficking in 2013 - up 47% on the previous year.
In total, the number of cases involving UK-born victims in 2013 rose 173% to 90; of those, 63 were children, an increase of 186% on 2012.
Liam Vernon, head of the NCA's UK human trafficking centre, added: "Increased awareness, both of human trafficking in its various forms and the obligation of first responders to use the National Referral Mechanism, is a likely contributor to the increased number of referrals in 2013.
"We know that this is a crime which affects some of society's most vulnerable people, and some victims will remain undetected. Equally, some of those referred to the NRM may not ultimately be classified as victims of human trafficking.
"The NCA is committed to relentlessly disrupting what is a criminal trade in human misery."
"Unicef UK is alarmed to see an increase in this worrying trend,” explained Anita Tiessen, the charity’s deputy executive director.
“Trafficked children - regardless of whether they're born in the UK or born elsewhere and trafficked into the UK - face violence, exploitation and abuse of the most unimaginable kind.
"The upcoming Modern Slavery Bill offers the UK a chance to develop world- leading anti-trafficking legislation, and Theresa May must seize this opportunity to protect trafficking's most vulnerable victims – children," she added.
Lynda Rose, UK Director of Voice For Justice, said: “Human trafficking is an appalling and degrading crime that creates misery for the victims, destroying their lives. But traffickers are difficult to catch, and the true scale of the problem remains unknown. I suspect.
“The figures released, though shocking, don't even scratch the surface. Whether it’s sexual exploitation, domestic or agricultural servitude, or straight crime, somewhere near you today there's a victim of trafficking. The new anti-slavery bill is to be welcomed as an attempt to deal with the traffickers and protect victims.”