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.

Glossary and definitions

Human Trafficking - the legal definition for human trafficking in Scotland is set out in the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015. A person commits an offence of human trafficking if a relevant action is taken with a view to another person being exploited. A relevant action includes: recruitment of another person; transportation or transfer of another person; harbouring or receiving of another person; exchange or transfer of control over another person; or the arrangement or facilitation of any of the above actions. It is irrelevant whether the other person consents to any part of the relevant action.

Smuggling – is defined by the UN Protocol Against Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air as the unlawful movement of people across national borders for profit. It is differentiated from trafficking in that there is no coercion or threat and contact with the smugglers ceases on arrival.

Human trafficking indicators – there are a number of lists and guidelines to help professionals identify potential victims of human trafficking (see International Organisation for Migration (2009; Home Office 2016)). In Scotland, the Inter-Agency Guidance for Child Trafficking contains a child trafficking matrix of possible indicators to support identification. The matrix is based on those factors that may indicate a child is a potential victim of trafficking. It is not a validated assessment of actual, or risk of, trafficking. It should not replace a comprehensive child protection assessment. Example indicators include: psychological indication of trauma or numbing; physical indicators of labour; claims to be in debt bondage or "owes" money to other persons; and deprived of earnings by another person. None of the indicators are definitive or, alone, can indicate trafficking.

National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – is the UK framework for identifying and referring potential victims of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and ensuring they receive appropriate support. At the time of the research, referrals were routed through the Modern Slavery Human Trafficking Unit in the National Crime Agency for a trafficking identification decision, within the National Crime Agency (for UK and EU nationals) or the Home Office (non-UK nationals subject to immigration control). Since April 2019, all referrals have been made to one Single Competent Authority, located in the Home Office.

First Responders - are those agencies who can refer into the NRM. In Scotland, for children, these agencies are Social Work Services, Police Scotland and the Home Office (see Home Office 2016).

Competent authority – the individuals who make a decision if a person is a victim of trafficking or slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour, following a referral to the NRM. 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.

Reasonable grounds decision – a reasonable grounds decision can be made following a referral to the NRM if the competent authority 'suspects but cannot prove' a person is a victim of human trafficking, slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour.

Conclusive grounds decision - 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 (see Home Office 2019a).

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) – the Scottish definition of sexual exploitation is contained in the National Action Plan to Prevent and Tackle Child Sexual Exploitation. Child sexual exploitation is defined as a form of child sexual abuse in which a person(s), of any age takes advantage of a power imbalance to force or entice a child into engaging in sexual activity in return for something received by the child and/or those perpetrating or facilitating the abuse. As with other forms of child sexual abuse, the presence of perceived consent does not undermine the abusive nature of the act.

Child criminal exploitation – an overarching term that is often used to include children who are involved in 'county lines' exploitation and also those who are victims of child trafficking. It may also include forced begging, stealing and cannabis cultivation.

'County lines' – 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.

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child (UASC) - defined by paragraph 352ZD of the Immigration Rules as a child who is under 18 years of age when an asylum application is submitted; is applying for asylum in their own right; is separated from both parents and is not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so. Being unaccompanied is not necessarily a permanent status. It may change, for example if the child has family members in the UK.

Unaccompanied children - (also called unaccompanied minors) are defined by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as children who have been separated from both parents and other relatives and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so.

Separated children - are defined as children who have been separated from both parents, or from their previous legal or customary primary care-giver, but not necessarily from other relatives. These may, therefore, include children accompanied by other adult family members.

Age assessments – sometimes it is necessary to make a decision about an asylum seeker's age when their claimed age is doubted by the Home Office, or local authorities. This can happen when they claim to be a child but are suspected to be an adult or they claim to be an adult but are suspected to be a child and where there is little or no reliable supporting evidence of the claimed age. Age assessments are intended to ensure the individual is treated age-appropriately and that they receive the necessary services and support in respect of protection and safeguarding. Where there is doubt, a careful assessment of the individual's age is required, with the person provisionally treated as a child until a decision on their age is made pending the outcome of the assessment. All accessible sources of relevant information and evidence must be considered, since no single assessment technique, or combination of techniques, is likely to determine the individual's age with precision (Home Office 2019b)

Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) – is the Scottish Government policy aimed at supporting children and families by ensuring children and young people receive the right help, at the right time, from the right people. The GIRFEC approach aims to support children and young people so that they can grow up feeling loved, safe and respected and can realise their full potential. GIRFEC is a strategic way for families to work in partnership with professionals who can support them.

SHANARRI – is made up of eight wellbeing factors which are used to help children, families and the people working with them to discuss how a child or young person is doing. These eight wellbeing factors are often referred to by their initial letters – SHANARRI – safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included.

Scottish policy for referring to children to the NRM– this is contained in the Inter-Agency Guidance for Child Trafficking. The document recognises that child trafficking is a crime that is a child protection concern and that responses to an identified or suspected case need to be in line with single and inter-agency child protection procedures. Any agency or individual who suspects a child is a victim of trafficking is expected to ensure the immediate safety of the child, if possible, and contact social work services and the police as per national child protection procedures. The relevant child protection personnel in social work and the police, supported by other relevant agencies, should then make a decision regarding possible case discussion and/or immediate referral to the NRM. The guidance states that social work services assume lead responsibility for completion of any paperwork relating to referrals to the NRM and competent authority, in conjunction with the police.



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