According to the 2011 Children in Care, England report, 4, 520 (7%) black or black African children were looked after in the UK care system.
The black population in the UK is estimated to be about 2% of the entire UK population making black children in care more than 3 times the percentage of the black population in the country.
There are many factors leading to such a high number of children from black/black African backgrounds ending up in the care system or coming to the attention of social services. One of this is child neglect and abuse.
Child abuse in Britain has been at the fore front of debate in the UK, particularly children from developing economies such as Nigeria and other regions in Africa and Asia.
Children are trafficked from these regions into the UK on the premise of having a better life.
Traffickers tempt their victims who are usually vulnerable children and youths to come into the UK, often through illegal means with promises of escaping the hardships of their current situation.
Unknown to the victim, traffickers have other plans for them on arrival into the UK.
Many are used as sex slaves, some are forced into cheap labour; working on many of the illegal cannabis farms in the UK, while others are held hostage in the homes of their captors as domestic help.
Within the UK Nigerian community, child abuse is a controversial topic that is quietly raging with many still denying that it is rife.
At a recent event tagged ‘Through The Eyes Of Survivors – A Video Screening on Human Trafficking”, a film which was acted and directed by victims of child trafficking, participants were taken through a step by step process of a typical trafficking scenario and the devastating effects that this could have on the lives of those involved.
The film was screened at a seminar organised by child abuse charity’ AFRUCA’ (Africans Unite Against Child Abuse) on the 15th Of April, at the Hogan Lovells premises in Central London.
A panel including AFRUCA founder Debbie Ariyo (OBE), Phillip Ishola Director of The Counter Human Trafficking Bureau, Bharti Patel Chief Executive Officer ECPAT, and Dorkas Erskine National Coordinator For The Poppy Project, discussed the issue of Child trafficking in great detail.
A main concern highlighted at the event was the fundamental issue of Poverty in developing countries which accounts for the reason most of the victims abandon their homes in pursuit of greener pastures.
Speaking at the event, Dorkas Erskine said that there are many issues facing children and youths in developing countries.
Factors including vulnerability, domestic violence and gender inequality all contribute to the ‘Better Life Syndrome’, where vulnerable people are groomed and eventually brought into the UK on the pretext that they are escaping hardship in their home country, only to be confronted with the harsh realities of being trafficked on arrival in Britain.
Bharti Patel added that the criminalisation of victims of child abuse was another issue hampering progress in halting the trend.
She raised the issue of non prosecution which states that children forced to commit a crime should not be prosecuted.
“There’s a very limited focus on trafficking as more projects are directed at poverty alleviation. the developmental question should be put into the prevention strategy in order to tackle the problem from the roots,” she said.
She also criticised the authorities for prioritising the child’s immigration status over welfare, stating that you had a better chance of being identified as a victim of child trafficking if you were from the EU, leaving victims from non EU countries wide open to exploitation as many are not given the necessary support and some are even deported for entering the UK illegally, inadvertently sending them back to their home countries where they’ll be open to re-trafficking.
Bharti admitted that a lot was being done to tackle the problem but argued that much more can be done and quicker.
She said more emphasis should be made on preventative measures by tackling the economic question in the first place rather than waiting for the crime to be committed before reacting to it.
The controversial Draft Modern Slavery bill which is currently being proposed by parliament was also debated in great detail.
Phillip Ishola of Counter Human Trafficking Bureau told the seminar that the antislavery bill was unhelpful in the fight against trafficking as the term ‘slave’ was derogatory and distracting from the main issue.
“The current EU law is perfectly capable of tackling trafficking issues if we chose to do so. This anti slavery law is unhelpful and all it does is really make politicians look like they’re doing something,’ he said.
‘It’s really just about vulnerable people being preyed upon. Young people are preyed upon for a variety of reasons and safeguarding the identities of those young people in danger is critically important as is reconnecting with them on a human level,” he added.
Bharti Patel also added that, “The bill lacks key measures on trafficking and is not victim centric.”
She also urged people to sign the petition against the bill which now has 55, 000 signatures on the organisation’s website, in a bid to force the government to look into and revise the bill to make it fit for purpose.
See the video on human trafficking below:
The actors are real victims of trafficking and their identities have been protected during the making of the video.