This week’s post is written by Jeni Page, a project manager in the third sector, currently working in children’s mental health in the UK. Her academic background is in conflict, forced migration, politics and anthropology. She is passionate about equality and improving outcomes for the most vulnerable. To follow Jeni on twitter, go to: @jeni_page.
In November 2012 nine men were convicted of the trafficking and sexual abuse of five young girls in Rochdale, North West England. Although just five gave evidence, police estimate the number abused was as high as 47. The majority of these girls lived in local care homes – residential settings where children are looked after by the state for their protection (as opposed to foster care). Since Rochdale, cases of child abuse have permeated the headlines in the UK with increasing frequency. The latest report from the Children’s Commissioner demonstrates a shocking acceptance by many young people of sexual exploitation either by gangs (street based groups of young people engaged in criminal activities) or informal groups that come together for the purpose of sexually exploiting children. By far, the most vulnerable are children ‘in care’. In fact, the Child Sexual Exploitation Inquiry, hurried along after Rochdale hit the headlines, suggests that some of these young victims are products of the care system itself. As I explore the ‘production’ of these young victims, I pose the question, could the state in these cases constitute a de facto trafficker?
This post unpicks the contradictions in the policy system that leave children in care openly vulnerable to exploitation. It looks at how children end up in care, the geography involved, the abuse, and the state’s role. It argues that local authorities knowingly send children into exploitative conditions and that a reassessment of decision making processes is essential to halt this de facto trafficking. (more…)
Our eye caught a reference in the recent Inter-Departmental Ministerial Group on Human Trafficking (IDMG) report to the use of trafficked and exploited labour in the cultivation of cannabis. This information really shouldn’t be a surprise – drugs and human trafficking have been long-established income generating activities for criminals, particularly organised crime networks. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre shows that trafficking for exploitation in cannabis farms is currently the largest trend for child trafficking in the UK. However, this trafficking trend seems relatively under-addressed by the media, and combined with the illegal status of cannabis, public awareness of this issue is relatively low. An ECPAT report on this issue noted the domination of the UK cannabis market by Vietnamese organised criminal networks and found evidence that children from South East Asia, particularly Vietnam, were being trafficked to work in the cultivation of cannabis. Indeed, the first case of a trafficked Vietnamese child for the purposes cannabis cultivation was found in 2003, which points to the fact that for nearly a decade, this engagement between Vietnamese criminals and trafficked labour (including children) for cannabis cultivation has existed and continues to grow. (more…)