1. “THEY’RE LUCKY TO HAVE BEEN TRAFFICKED INTO THE UK”
It’s true that many of the young people we work with came from political, social, and economic turmoil in their home countries. But let’s be clear: There is no silver lining to being trafficked. In fact, most of them are quite homesick. They miss their mum, they miss their dad, they miss their brothers and sisters, their language, their culture, their food. They miss everything. They don’t consider themselves lucky to have been tricked or forced into exploitation. Why should we?
2. “THESE YOUNG PEOPLE NEED TO BE LOCKED UP IN PRISON TO BE SAFEGUARDED.”
Although prison will keep them from going missing it will not keep them safe from traffickers. It just isn’t a place that’s designed to help people rest and heal, and traffickers can still make contact with them. If children have been coerced and controlled, they are not going to feel any better to be locked in a cell. These children are not criminals, they are victims of a crime. We believe that the best place for a child in the aftermath of abuse is in a home. That’s where our work comes in. We train foster care providers to recognise and respond to the needs of trafficked and exploited children. These young people may still be in contact with their traffickers. They may try to run away, or even attempt suicide. The carers who receive our training know how to keep them safe by using the immediate safety plan, and they convey compassion while also protecting the child. As long as children are safe, it’s best for them to be in a place where they can also feel free. They can sleep late. With the support of the carer, they can take walks outside. They can go downstairs to get a bowl of cereal when they want. These are small details, but they’re very important to young people whose lives have been affected by trafficking and exploitation.
3. “THEY’RE NOT OURS ARE THEY? THEY’RE NOT OUR RESPONSIBILITY, RIGHT?”
They’re children, they’re here, and we have to safeguard them. There’s an attitude we’ve seen that the young people Love146 works with are first and foremost immigrants or trafficked here to the UK, but not “ours.” These are children first — no matter how they got into the situation they’re in. If a baby showed up on your doorstep in the winter, you would take him inside and bring him to people who could help him. Why should we have a different attitude towards vulnerable children and teens who show up in the UK? It doesn’t matter how the children got here. They have needs, they’re at risk, and once in the UK they are our children and we have to think of them as our children.
4. “THIS CHILD IS A CRIMINAL.”
We’ve seen stories like this a few times: A boy is forced to work in a cannabis factory. He escapes from the situation of labor exploitation within a criminal enterprise and is placed in safe accommodation. However, it’s quite common for the young people we work with to be prosecuted for criminal activity that they committed while they were under the control of their traffickers and they may have a criminal record. It’s very sad that they are sometimes treated as perpetrators and not victims. And it’s one reason we need to raise awareness among law enforcement about trafficking: Survivors should not be punished for crimes that they were forced to commit while being exploited and controlled by their traffickers.
5. “WHY NOT JUST PUT THEM IN REGULAR FOSTER HOMES?”
It’s true that the UK is full of wonderful carers who are ready to provide accommodation and support to children at a moment’s notice. But young people who have been trafficked arrive with unique risks and needs that not every family is trained to handle. If they are not placed with people who understand the issues around trafficking, immediate safeguarding and safety planning, they will likely go missing. We must ensure that care providers are prepared for anything that might happen. After everything they’ve been through, trafficking victims deserve to be in a place where their unique needs can be understood and provided for, so more specialised care is essential.
Your support provides the specialised care that children trafficked into the UK deserve: