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Modern slavery
Modern slavery

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3.4 Case in focus – child trafficking in Scotland

In this section, you will be asked to apply your knowledge of the legal framework regarding THB in the context of the research report on child trafficking in Scotland.

Activity 7 Child trafficking in Scotland – a case study

Part 1

Read the following parts of the report, Scotland: a Safe Place for Child Traffickers? [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   (2011) by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People and the Centre for Rural Childhood.

While reading, take notes of the key points, which will help you build answers to the following questions:

  • a.What are the characteristic features of child trafficking?
  • b.What are suggested root causes of child trafficking?
  • c.Based on the information provided in Table 1, what was the age and gender of the youngest victim of child trafficking in Scotland? What type of exploitation was the child a victim of?
  • d.What are the key challenges to combating child trafficking in Scotland?
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  • a.Children are a particularly vulnerable group. Due to their age, they have particular needs as victims of THB and may be in need of additional protection and support. The clandestine nature of THB makes it difficult to fully assess the number of victims.
  • b.The report suggests several factors, which contribute to child trafficking. The situations in victims’ countries of origin, such as human rights abuses, armed conflicts or marginalisation of some groups of children are important factors to consider. Furthermore, structural inequalities, e.g. poverty, unequal opportunities for children living in rural and urban environments, discrimination due to gender, age or ethnicity, potentially exacerbate the risks of children becoming victims of trafficking.
  • c.The youngest victim presented in the report was a 2-year-old girl. She was trafficked to Scotland from Portugal for the purposes of benefit fraud.
  • d.The report notes the clash between the commitment of the UK Government to fight trafficking and the reality of a shortage of adequately trained police officers to deal with child trafficking. The low rate of prosecutions supports the view that child trafficking is a low-risk/high-profit activity and the likely impunity for THB encourages this activity.

    The extent of child trafficking is often underestimated and there is an alarming lack of awareness of it among members of the society. There are also some procedural barriers, such as shortage of trained interpreters and lack of awareness of cultural issues in a victim’s country of origin among professional staff.

    Due to shortages of resources, specific needs of child victims are often not being met.

Part 2

In this part of the activity, you are asked to consider parts of The Fifth Periodic Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child submitted by the UK Government in May 2014. Look at the extract of the report and answer the following questions:

  • a.Why is the UK submitting the report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child and what is the report about?
  • b.What are the key recommendations to the UK Government made in 2011 in the report on child trafficking in Scotland?
  • c.Looking at the 2014 UK’s report to the CRC, what are the key achievements of the UK Government in combating child trafficking?
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  • a.The UK is a party to the CRC 1989 and the two optional protocols to the CRC. The UK Government is, therefore, obliged to submit a periodic report. A report is submitted every five years (the last one was submitted in October 2008) and then the Committee reviews it and makes recommendations. The content of the report outlines steps taken by the UK Government in the past five years to address the recommendations of the Committee arising from the previous periodic report (October 2008). Headings in bold indicate the topic of the recommendation.
  • b.The report recommends the ratification of the key European instrument addressing child trafficking: the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. The reports suggest several procedural changes. In particular, it calls for the implementation of child-sensitive procedures and child-sensitive training of the staff who deal with trafficked children. Finally, it is suggested that a human trafficking rapporteur focusing on the needs of children and young people should be appointed.
  • c.The UK Government has taken some significant steps towards combating THB, particularly in the form of developing legislation on modern slavery (Modern Slavery Bill 2013, which became the Modern Slavery Act 2015). In April 2013 the UK also ratified the European Union Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims. However, at the time of writing (June 2015), the UK still has not ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. Nonetheless, the UK has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

    The UK Government has attempted to address the need for a more child-sensitive approach to child victims of THB. It has proposed a new system of advocates for child victims of trafficking. These advocates are intended to provide individual, dedicated support, not only to those children trafficked across borders, but to those trafficked within the UK.