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Still in Harm’s Way

An update report on trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing from care in the UK

The scale of trafficked and unaccompanied children who go missing from care was first established in 2016, where it was found that child victims of trafficking and unaccompanied children were at high risk of going missing.

This research attempts to update the existing data on this issue, which relates to 2014-15. This report quantifies the number of reported trafficked and unaccompanied children in the UK, as well as the number going missing from care.

Still in Harm’s Way reveals that, in 2017:

• 1,015 children were reported by local authorities as identified or suspected victims of trafficking, an increase of 58% (up from 590) from 2014–15

• 4,765 children were reported as being unaccompanied, which is no significant change from 2014-15 (4,744 unaccompanied children) High numbers of these children were reported missing in 2017:

• 24% of all identified or suspected victims of trafficking went missing from care (246 of 1,015)

• 15% of all unaccompanied children went missing from care (729 of 4,756)

• 190 children who have gone missing have not been found

The findings show that this severe child protection issue still requires urgent attention by national and local governments, with a focus on safeguarding children and preventing them from going missing. Investment is needed in robust safeguarding measures and the provision of specialist support for these children.

Child trafficking victims are particularly vulnerable to going missing, and are likely to go missing multiple times per year:

• In 2017 child trafficking victims went missing on average 7.2 times each. This is an increase from an average of 2.4 times in 2014-15. The research has identified that for some local authorities, missing trafficked or unaccompanied children account for a significant proportion of their overall looked after children numbers:

• In one local authority, 15% of the total looked after children population were trafficked or unaccompanied children who had been reported missing.

This is concerning, and points to failures to properly safeguard and protect these children at a local level.

While the data indicates that there may have been improvements in the identification of child victims of trafficking over the last two years, it is evident that there is continued need for better data recording and reporting on the issue. This report provides the most up to date picture of the scale of trafficked and unaccompanied children going missing, however given the data limitations and the fact that the government does not collect comprehensive data on either of these issues, there remains no comprehensive understanding of the rate of child trafficking and missing in the UK.