We often think it doesn’t happen in Surrey. BUT It does.
Child trafficking is where children and young people are tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes and are moved or transported and then exploited or forced to work or sold by organised criminal gangs.
It’s a common misconception that child trafficking is something that only affects third world countries, but sadly that’s simply not the case. That’s why Surrey Police is this week (Monday, 28 June – Sunday, 4 July) supporting Operation Aidant, a country wide operation to target child trafficking in Surrey and across the country. The operational aim of the campaign is to stop child trafficking and exploitation of under 18s who are UK and non-UK nationals, as well as raising vital awareness of this hidden crime.
Trafficked children are some of the most vulnerable in the UK. They are usually too afraid to seek help and it is hard to remove them from the people exploiting them.
From our own experience and in consultation with communities, we know this kind of abuse is under-reported. Surrey Police is asking the public to be more vigilant in spotting the signs indicating possible child trafficking.
Spotting the signs can prevent escalation from ‘subtle’ harms that may often go unnoticed by many, to ‘extreme’ situations where there is loss of life. A child victim is unlikely to recognise that they’re a victim so won’t seek help. That’s why we need the public and everyone else to be alert and act on the child’s behalf.
What are the signs of child trafficking?
Identifying a child who has been trafficked can be very difficult, as they are intentionally hidden and isolated from the services and communities who can identify and protect them.
A trafficked child may:
- lack personal items or toys
- wear the same clothes
- give a prepared story which is very similar to stories given by other children
- be unsure which country, city or town they’re in
- have no documents (or have falsified documents)
- rarely leave their house, have no freedom of movement and no time for playing
- be unable or reluctant to give details of accommodation or personal details
- not have access to their parents or guardians
- not be registered with a school or a GP practice
- spend a lot of time doing household chores
- be orphaned or live apart from their family, often in unregulated private foster care
- live in substandard accommodation (a work address or dirty, cramped, unhygienic or overcrowded accommodation, including caravans, sheds, tents or outbuildings)
- be seen in inappropriate places – such as brothels or factories
- possess money or goods they can’t account for
- be permanently deprived of a large part of their earnings (for example if they’re required to earn a minimum amount of money every day or pay off an exorbitant debt)
- have injuries from workplace accidents
- have tattoos or other marks indicating ownership
- often be moved by others between specific locations (for example to and from work) – this may happen at unusual times such as very early in the day or at night
- be involved in the consumption, sale, trafficking of drugs
- be reluctant to seek help, avoidance of strangers, being fearful or hostile towards authorities
The warning signs presented by children and young people who are being exploited will be different for everyone.
If you encounter a situation which doesn’t seem right, even if you’re not quite sure about it, we encourage you to report it by contacting Surrey Police on 101 (999 in an emergency)
You can also give information, 100% anonymously, to the independent charity Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700; or through their anonymous online form: https://www.modernslaveryhelpline.org/