Child trafficking: research

Research on the routes and circumstances of children and young people who have been identified as victims of trafficking and exploitation in Scotland, and their experiences of support services.


1. From April 2019 the Home Office will publish the statistics

2. The National Crime Agency use the term 'county lines' to describe urban drug gangs' expansion of operations to smaller towns in the UK; often using violence to drive out local dealers and exploiting children and vulnerable people to sell drugs; using dedicated mobile phone lines. This term is commonly used in England and Wales.

3. When referring to the study findings, we use the terms children and/or young people depending on the age groups being discussed.

4. Ethical approval for the study was obtained from the University of Stirling General University Ethics Panel and subsequently from participating local authorities prior to accessing case files and/or research participants. Ongoing ethical issues were discussed at the Child Trafficking Steering Group where feedback and advice helped to support the research process.

5. It was agreed at the outset that the study would focus on young people identified across a specified period of time. For reasons of confidentiality and to ensure no identification of young people, the exact period will not be made explicit. The chosen timeframe allowed for a post-identification period to provide some comment on effectiveness of responses in relation to outcomes, to comment on the effectiveness of the NRM model to provide additional support for children, and to make some comparative comments with previous research in Scotland.

6. At the time of this research, the competent authority was located either within the National Crime Agency (for UK and EU nationals) or the Home Office (non-UK nationals subject to immigration control).

7. Taking into account recording and potentially different narratives the case file information was only as reliable as the agency recordings. The limited data provided impacts on study findings (Brennan 2005).

8. This lack of information is a challenge if safeguarding factors are part of decision-making processes about returns to countries of origin. We note that this information may have been recorded separately in legal statements and/or Home Office documentation.

9. See appendix 1 for interview schedules.

10. To protect research participant anonymity, individuals have been identified by participant (P) number rather than job or location.

11. See appendix 2 for interview schedule.

12. Interview subjects were not linked to the case file data analysis.

13. Age assessment numbers were provided by Scottish Guardianship Service.

14. Cameron (2010) identified children from Afghanistan as a major concern amongst professionals and SCCYP (2011) identified Roma children as a concern regarding trafficking. This suggests concerns about children from particular countries over time dissipate or increase as patterns change.

15. In consultation with the Research Steering Group (National Child Trafficking Strategy Group) Vietnam was identified specifically as it is acknowledged to be the country of origin for most children and young people referred to the NRM from Scotland.

16. The official statistics list Congo, it is not clear if this refers to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, or Republic of Congo.

17. Since the fieldwork was completed more UK children have been referred from Scotland.

18. The research did not include access to all partner agency files where this information may have been recorded.

19. 'My World' is used to think about the whole world of the child or young person. It supports practice that considers the child or young person's needs and risks, as well as the positive features in their lives. This may include information about health or learning, offending behaviour or information about issues affecting parenting.

20. One case note clearly indicated an acknowledgment by a young person that their earlier account was inaccurate.

21. A conclusive grounds decision can be made following a reasonable grounds decision if 'on the balance of probabilities' there are sufficient grounds to decide that the individual is a victim of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour

22. Please note some of the NRM data and decisions from the National Crime Agency have been redacted for reasons of confidentiality and the actual figures are not included here

23. At the time of this research, the competent authority was located either within the National Crime Agency (for UK and EU nationals) or the Home Office (non-UK nationals subject to immigration control). Since April 2019, the competent authority has been located within the Home Office, making decisions on all people referred into the NRM.

24. ECPAT UK (2017) identified that across the UK, 54% of respondents to a survey believed that the NRM process required revision. The actual process of referral into the NRM has been criticised as a bureaucratic process of referral to a central government authority to decide on status, not referral to support services (Arocha and Wallace 2010; Fairfax and Rigby 2011).

25. This may be a recording issue as no concerns were raised by professionals regarding legal access.

26. One young person who had agreed to take part in an interview specifically asked if he would have to tell his story to the researcher. He was relieved when assured that for the purpose of the study he would only be asked about the support services in Scotland.

27. Data was not available for all children and young people

28. There was no direct relationship between the case file data accessed and the young people interviewed



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