Always Migrants Sometimes Children: A mapping of the reception and protection of unaccompanied children in the United Kingdom

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Coram Children's Legal Centre

In the year ending in March 2014, 1,288 unaccompanied migrant children applied for asylum in the United Kingdom. This was a significant decrease from a high point in 2002, when 6,200 of these children applied for asylum. However, at the same time actors have become more expert in identifying children who have been trafficked into the United Kingdom. In addition, the potential scale of the numbers of undocumented unaccompanied migrant children living in the United Kingdom has become a little clearer. This report has addressed the needs of all of these groups of children.

The report was written at a time of considerable change in relation to the identification of and response to trafficked children. A Modern Slavery Bill, which will apply in England and Wales, is being debated in the UK Parliament. Draft bills are also under discussion in the Scottish parliament and the Northern Ireland Assembly. The UK government has established a trial for child advocates for trafficking children in 23 local authority areas in England and is reviewing the National Referral Mechanism, which operates for trafficked children throughout the UK.

The research for the report identified that actors in the UK are increasingly aware that unaccompanied migrant children are trafficked and exploited for a wide range of reasons and not just for sexual exploitation. This has led to a better understanding of the complex needs of children who have been trafficked to be exploited for the purposes of, for example, street crime, cannabis factories and benefit fraud.

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