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Victims of child trafficking say plans will leave others “unsafe, traumatised and fearful”

Child victims of trafficking have written to parliamentarians to warn about the risks to children and to urge them to vote against the Illegal Migration Bill ahead of House of Lords debate.

28/06/23

Victims of child trafficking say plans will leave others “unsafe, traumatised and fearful”

Young people have written to parliamentarians ahead of today’s (Wednesday 28th June) first Report Stage debate on the Illegal Migration Bill in the House of Lords.

The letter comes following widespread concerns about the impact of the Bill on children and other vulnerable groups from a number of bodies including the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the Children’s Commissioner for England, the Women and Equalities Committee, UN Special Rapporteurs, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and many charities and organisations concerned with children’s welfare and protection.

“We are very worried about unaccompanied children coming to the UK now and since 7th March 2023. We are concerned that they will not receive the right support and will not be safe and that many will go missing and may be trafficked or retrafficked,” Members of ECPAT UK’s Youth Advisory Group said in their letter.

“Plans to deny the right to claim asylum or leave to remain as a victim of trafficking, to detain young people, to accommodate children in hotels without care, to return them to unsafe places that they were forced to leave in the first place or to deport them to somewhere they don’t know will leave them unsafe, traumatised and fearful.”

Campaigners say that measures in the Bill will mean a reversal of the 2010 commitment by the government, enacted into law in 2014, to end child detention. This landmark achievement stopped the routine detention of thousands of children and families for immigration purposes – a practice recognised as ‘state-sponsored cruelty’.

They also include refusing to consider the claims made by unaccompanied children for international protection, no matter which country they have come from, rolling back protections the UK has put in place to safeguard children seeking safety alone with the threat of deportation when they reach 18 years old.

Campaigners say the Bill is also an affront to the protections the UK should provide unaccompanied children and child victims of trafficking under the European Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Children Act 1989, leaving them at greater risk of abuse and duties to safeguard children are undermined.

Patricia Durr, CEO ECPAT UK said considering the proposals in the Illegal Migration Bill has been very upsetting for those who had previously been trafficked because they “understand so acutely what this means for children and young people and the risks and dangers to them”.

“It is not easy for child victims of trafficking to speak out but when they do it is important that they are heard and listened to. We can see already the outcomes for children when their rights and the hard won duties towards them are discarded: 154 children are still missing from Home Office run hotels with evidence that children have been harmed and exploited.”

“I urge all parliamentarians to think about the impact on children and to stand up for children’s rights when they consider how they will vote on this bill. The rollback on human rights and child protection cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.”

The Illegal Migration Bill so far has 3 days of Report Stage in the House of Lords on 28 June, 3 July and 5 July.

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