Inter-agency guidance on child trafficking

This toolkit is designed as Scottish practice guidance to be used with the Scottish Government National Child Protection Guidance.

Appendix A

Research Context - a brief overview

The illegal trading of people is a global problem, thought to be the third largest illegal trade after drugs and weapons trafficking. Globalisation has contributed to the growth of trafficking, and due to the fact humans can be re-sold it is comparatively low risk with high rewards, making it a profitable activity for traffickers. [12]

The US Dept of State estimates that 800,000 people are trafficked across national borders annually, nearly 50% of these being children. However, there are no clear estimates about the numbers of children trafficked around the world, the International Labour Organisation ( ILO) estimate 1.2 million children are trafficked annually and UNICEF describe the numbers as enormous. [13,14] While in Western Europe women are the most numerous victims, globally children constitute the largest numbers. [15] Throughout the world children are trafficked for numerous purposes within and between countries. While exploitation varies between different parts of the world children trafficked for one type of labour are often sold into another making simple categorisation problematic. [16]

Children in Scotland have been identified as being exploited for:

  • child labour eg cannabis farms
  • debt bondage
  • domestic servitude
  • begging
  • benefit fraud
  • drug trafficking / decoys
  • illegal adoptions
  • forced / illegal marriage
  • sexual abuse and
  • sexual exploitation

Worldwide there are also documented cases of exploitation in relation to organ donations, use in sport and military conscription.

Child trafficking in the UK

The United Kingdom is considered a high risk destination country for victims of human trafficking and a number of case studies and data collection exercises have documented the existence of potential child trafficking cases into and out of the country. [17] These studies cannot provide confirmed numbers of trafficked or at risk children, but they do begin to quantify the problem. CEOP studies in 2007 and 2009 have identified over 600 children as fitting the trafficking profile in the UK. By the end of 2010 305 children had been referred to the UK Human Trafficking Centre as suspected victims of trafficking (

The limited research that has been commissioned in the UK has reached some consensus that trafficking is a growing phenomena, requiring a co-ordinated response, involving research, intelligence, awareness raising and training on a multi-agency level. There is insufficient robust information about the prevalence of child trafficking in the UK and it is clear that knowledge and understanding remains at an early stage, especially so in Scotland.

Child trafficking in Scotland

The extent and nature of child trafficking in Scotland is largely unknown, although a report by the Children's Commissioner in 2011 attempted to quantify the issue across the country, identifying at least 83 potential victims. [18] Research commissioned by the Child Protection Committee in Glasgow investigated the prevalence of child trafficking amongst the unaccompanied asylum seeking children population. This identified that nearly a quarter of unaccompanied asylum seeking children ( UASC) in the city had probably been trafficked. Follow on work interviewing front line practitioners and monitoring referrals to the social work child protection team indicated that there have been nearly 100 children referred to the child protection team following concerns about trafficking. However, it remains unknown if these cases identified are the 'tip of an iceberg' or the extent of the issue. [19] As the Children's Commissioner Report identified, Glasgow is not the only place in Scotland likely to be experiencing issues regarding children who have been trafficked as it is likely to affect urban as well as rural areas across Scotland.


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