- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Category: Media
Human trafficking campaigner Joyce Watson today demanded action to protect unaccompanied child asylum seekers from modern slavery.
The Labour AM asked the Welsh Business Minister to urgently look at what is done for those who go missing from care.
Speaking in the National Assembly for Wales, Mrs Watson asked the minister to assure her that Welsh local authorities and other agencies with responsibility for unaccompanied asylum seeking children in Wales are taking all necessary steps to meet their obligations to protect vulnerable children from falling into the hands of criminal gangs.
Mrs Watson called the Minister’s attention to the number of unaccompanied child asylum seekers in Wales. She said:
“I am worried that we don’t know the size of the problem in Wales. A recent BBC report found that last year around 3,000 unaccompanied asylum seeking children arrived in the UK, often fleeing war and persecution.
“The report stated that 891 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children disappeared after arriving in the UK over the last three years. Of these, 421 are still missing, and some of those are likely to be in Wales. All too often we are led to believe that the problem of asylum seekers is a highly visible one. It is not. Often we do not know what has happened to these children.
“We know that there is a danger that children who disappear can be trafficked by criminals.
“I am currently trying to get information from local authorities in Wales as to the numbers of unaccompanied child asylum seekers that are at risk so that we can begin to protect and provide the appropriate care for them.
“The appointment of the anti-slavery co-ordinator in Wales and the All Wales Protocol on Missing Children are steps in the right direction, and show that Wales is leading the way in tackling this issue head-on.
“However, we need to make the invisible visible. Not knowing means not doing. And not doing is to let these children down.”
Evidence indicates that vulnerable children are targeted by criminal human traffickers, forcing children to work in brothels, cannabis factories and in domestic servitude in private homes.
Refugee campaigners say trafficked children, or those at risk, are often being failed after reaching the UK, with local authorities not equipped to adequately protect and safeguard them.
Responding, Minister Jane Hutt promised that Welsh Government and the Anti-Slavery Co-ordinator would continue to look at ways to co-ordinate support and monitor local services to combat trafficking.
Mrs Watson, who recently won a Woman in Public Life award for her campaigning work, successfully lobbied for the appointment of an anti-trafficking co-ordinator following the publication of her research into human trafficking in Wales Knowing No Boundaries – Local solutions to an international crime: Trafficking of women and children in Wales 2010.
For more information about Joyce Watson AM’s work, contact her office on 0300 200 7092 / www.joycewatson.org.uk