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Trafficked Children Need Us to Advocate For Them

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It is extraordinary to think that slavery of any kind still exists in the modern world. For many slavery is a remnant of a bygone era; an unpleasant and unrepeatable portion of human history. So it's shocking when you learn that slavery not only still exists but is happening across the UK today.

Every year hundreds of people are trafficked into this country to be exploited in brothels, drug farms or sold as domestic slaves - the horrors they endure are frankly unimaginable by most of us.

Even more horrifyingly, some 450 of the 1,746 victims of human trafficking referred for support last year were children. In reality, it is likely that this number is the tip of the iceberg - in truth, nobody really knows how many young girls and boys are trafficked into this country. It makes me incredibly angry that in this day and age, children can still be treated with such callous disregard.

Which is why I am proud that Barnardo's has this week been appointed to provide an advocacy service for child victims of trafficking.

The pilot scheme announced by the Home Office will help provide support to victims of trafficking so they don't have to journey alone through our complicated legal systems. Instead they will now have an expert with them every step of the way. These services will act as a lifeline of support for these children who have found themselves in a country with which they have no cultural, familial or linguistic ties.

On Wednesday, the Modern Slavery Bill was presented to Parliament in the Queen's Speech. The Bill promises to strengthen sentences for perpetrators, install an anti-slavery commissioner and ensure that victims who commit an offence as a result of coercion will not face prosecution.

I believe this proposed legislation is a defining moment in the battle against this abhorrent crime. Barnardo's already has three specialist services providing intensive one to one and group support to trafficked children. The stories recounted to our expert support workers puts into sharp focus the importance of putting in place robust legislation.

Take Linh for example. When she was 15, Linh's father discovered he had cancer. He decided that Linh should be adopted by a woman he had met in Taiwan, who said that she would look after her.

But this woman held Linh's travel documents and flew her to Thailand, to Russia, and on to Europe. She was held in a house in Germany with other Vietnamese people.

Linh was told that this was a prostitution business, and that she owed them £10,000 for the cost of being transported from Vietnam. She saw tired-looking young women being brought in and out of the house, and she witnessed an older women being tied down and raped.

After some time, Linh was illegally transported to the UK in the back of a truck. She was abused by two men en-route, and contracted a sexually transmitted infection as a result.

When she arrived in England she was taken to a house and told she had to work as a prostitute to pay back what she 'owed'.

But one day Linh managed to escape, by stealing some money and getting on a bus. She was eventually noticed looking very distressed in a bus shelter, and was taken to social services.

Child victims of trafficking can be unbelievably vulnerable and the fear they experience makes extricating them from the grip of the traffickers extremely difficult. These children need on-going intensive support if they are to have any chance of escaping the terrifying abuse they have suffered. Linh was lucky enough to be able to escape her abusers, and thanks to the specialist help she received from Barnardo's she has begun to recover and move on from her experiences.

We must do all we can to fight for the end of the unspeakable crime of human trafficking, and to offer a lifeline to those children who have already been through so much.

This week has been a massive step in the right direction from government on this issue. Together we have an opportunity to stamp out this horrific abuse for good and we must not waste it.

Around the Web

Child trafficking | NSPCC

UK child sex abuse trafficking doubles - National Crime Agency - BBC

ECPAT UK - Protecting Children Everywhere

Stop Child Trafficking | Our Campaigns | UNICEF UK

Trafficking and exploitation - The Children's Society

Good news in the campaign against child trafficking

Pensions at heart of short speech

Big response at festival to child trafficking campaign

Campaign against human trafficking launched at Vatican for Brazilian World Cup

Europol - Increased focus on the link between the internet and human trafficking