Children’s rights campaigners have welcomed last-minute changes to the Modern Slavery Bill, giving advocates for child trafficking victims legal powers.

The revised Act will now acknowledge that the children and young adults trafficked into the UK need help in understanding the judicial system, and its implications, by way of ‘legal guardians’. In addition to statutory status, the advocates will also have the power to appoint and instruct legal representation for children.

Authorities will also be required to provide advocates with information about victims so that they can effectively represent them.

One campaigning website, Stop The Traffik, tells us that human trafficking is reportedly the world’s fastest growing global crime with 600,000 – 800,000 men, women and children reportedly trafficked across international borders each year. Approximately 80 per cent are women and girls. Up to 50% are minors.

According to Unicef, 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Reports from the US state at least 20.9 million people are victims of forced labour worldwide and while it is difficult to establish a precise amount, conservative 2012 research estimated trafficking victims as approaching 44 per cent of this figure.

Up until now, 23 authorities around the UK have been trialling the advocate system, set up and funded by Barnardos. The Child Trafficking Advocacy Service (CTA) was developed to work with young people who have been trafficked from abroad and/or who have arrived in the UK.

Campaigners and MPs backing the new changes are heavily urging parliament to push the laws through, sooner rather than later, and are using the fact that Northern Ireland has already become the first country in the UK to give the act Royal Assent back in January.

The Human Trafficking & Exploitation Bill in Northern Ireland now contains a provision for trafficked and separated children who arrive in the country without a parent, or primary caregiver, to have an independent legal guardian to help them.

Sarah Carlick, Director and Founder of the Athena Programme, gives her opinion:

“We exist to educate and train experts within the care sector in line with new legislation and practice so naturally I am delighted with this move forward.

“As a supporter of advocacy, especially in the case of a child or young person who finds themselves in such a distressing situation, it can only be a good thing as it will give them such a feeling of empowerment and the realisation that their voice will be heard.

“In the greater scheme of things it also acknowledges this is happening and is a real problem and places the focus on the child and what happens next for them.

It is time that those who have the powers to change the law do so, so that those individuals within our care sector have the ability to administer the care and essential welfare needed to give these children a future.”

Modern Slavery Bill –

Legal Guardians –

Human Trafficking and Exploitation Bill –

The Child Trafficking Advocacy Service –
Stop The Traffik – Global Movement of Activists –