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Child Trafficking

In February 2012, the Archbishop of York spoke in the House of Lords in support of Amendment 57A of the Protection of Freedoms Bill. The Amendment looks to protect those who are victims of child trafficking.

The Archbishop said: "My Lords, I most warmly support  the amendment and welcome the tripartite negotiations announced by the  Minister. I hope that speed will be of the essence and that we shall be  informed of the outcome before Third Reading. I hope that he will not  simply say, "Further negotiations are going on. We hope to make some  practical arrangements". I hope that the noble Lord, Lord McColl, will  not let go of the matter and will keep an eagle eye on the negotiations.      

"The objective of  the Bill-the protection of freedoms -is deficient unless, as the noble  Baroness, Lady Royall, said, it protects the freedoms and interests of  the most vulnerable members of society. It is hard to think of a more  vulnerable group than children who have been trafficked. It is bad  enough imagining the distress of an adult who arrives in a foreign  country alone and oppressed and has to contend with traffickers, the  immigration authorities and the police. How much more traumatic and  inhibiting it must be for a child to face the same challenge.

"In this  situation, children need to be supported and represented so that their  best interests are safeguarded. The issue at stake is whether we rest  content with minimal provision, as required by the EU directive, or  whether we seek an effective and properly resourced system of advocacy. I  for one would go for the latter: a better system of advocacy for the  children. I do not find the phrase "legal advocate" difficult.  "Guardian" would be quite difficult to understand, but I can see what a  "legal advocate" might do. However, other people may think differently.

"Our recent  performance in losing 32 per cent of trafficked children in local  authority care between 2007 and 2010 suggests that we need to raise our  game. How can so many be lost? It is too huge a loss. We should seek a  better way, as outlined in the UNICEF definition of the role of a  guardian and the standards set out in the various international  instruments.

"The amendment  offers us that better way. The provisions of the Children Act 1989 are  good as far as they go, but they do not meet the special requirements of  children who have been trafficked. The noble Lord's amendment sets out  the duties of a legal advocate with admirable clarity and provides for  suitably qualified and trained people to fill that role. It has the  advantage, by drawing on employees of statutory organisations or  volunteers with specialist NGOs, of keeping extra costs down.

"I am grateful,  too, for Amendment 57A, because there was a fear, generated in the  margins of your Lordships' House, that Amendment 57 would provide an  incentive for opportunistic and misguided parents to traffick their own  children in order to gain entry into the United Kingdom. There was that  fear and the new amendment deals with that. Again, I do not know on what  evidence that fear rested, but for me it would still be wrong to fail  to provide support for genuine child victims simply out of fear that  unscrupulous parents might take advantage of the provision.

"To return to  Amendment 57A, I am personally not convinced of the Government's  argument that the status quo is good enough. I do not think that it is.  The noble Lord, Lord McColl, and his supporters have given us an  opportunity to remedy a serious gap in our provision for victims of  trafficking, particularly children. I thank him for that and urge that  we seize the opportunity with both hands. I am grateful for the  consultation that will take place. I hope that the Minister will assure  us that he will not kick it into the long grass."

Amendment 57A of the Protection of Freedoms Bill, tabled Lord McColl is as follows:

Amendment 57A

Moved by Lord McColl of Dulwich

57A: After Clause 110, insert the following new Clause-

"Legal advocate for child victim of human trafficking

(1)  It shall be a requirement that each child who might have been the  victim of a human trafficking offence shall have a legal advocate  appointed to represent the best interests of that child if the person  who has parental responsibility fulfils any of the conditions set out in  subsection (3).

(2) The legal advocate shall have the following responsibilities-

(a) to advocate that all decisions taken are in the child's best interest;

(b) to advocate for the child to receive  appropriate care, accommodation, medical treatment, including  psychological assistance, education, translation and interpretation  services;

(c) to advocate for the child's access to legal and other representation where necessary;

(d) to consult with, advise and keep the child victim informed of legal rights;

(e) to contribute to identification of a  plan to safeguard and promote the long-term welfare of the child based  on an individual assessment of that child's best interests;

(f) to keep the child informed of all relevant immigration, criminal or compensation proceedings;

(g) to provide a link between the child and various organisations which may provide services to the child;

(h) to assist in establishing contact  with the child's family, where the child so wishes and it is in the  child's best interests;

(i) to attend all police interviews with the child; and

(j) to accompany the child whenever the child moves to new accommodation.

(3) Subsection (1) applies if the person who has parental responsibility for the child-

(a) is suspected of taking part in a human trafficking offence;

(b) has another conflict of interest with the child;

(c) is not in contact with the child; or

(d) is in a country outside the United Kingdom.

(4) In subsection (1), a legal advocate may be-

(a) an employee of a statutory body;

(b) an employee of a recognised charitable organisation; or

(c) a volunteer for a recognised charitable organisation.

(5)  Where a legal advocate is appointed under subsection (1), it shall be a  requirement that any relevant agency recognises the authority of the  legal advocate in relation to the child.

(6) In subsection (5), a "relevant agency" means a person or organisation which-

(a) provides services to the child; or

(b) the child needs access to in relation to being a victim of a human trafficking offence.

(7) The Secretary of State-

(a) shall by order set out the arrangements for the appointment of a legal advocate;

(b) may make rules about the training courses to be completed before a person may exercise functions as a legal advocate; and

(c) shall by order designate organisations as a "recognised charitable organisation" for the purpose of this section.

(8) In this section-

"human  trafficking offence" means an offence under section 59A of the Sexual  Offences Act 2003 (trafficking people for sexual exploitation) or an  offence under section 4 of the Asylum and Immigration (treatment of  Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 (trafficking people for labour and other  exploitation); and

"parental responsibility" has the same meaning as section 3 of the Children Act 1989."

To read the full debate from the House of Lords.