People Trafficking

– in the House of Lords at 11:29 am on 23rd June 2005.

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Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Spokesperson in the Lords, Welsh Affairs, Whip 11:29 am, 23rd June 2005

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their response to recent reports that young Africans are trafficked into the United Kingdom and subsequently go missing.

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, initial inquiries made by the team investigating the "Adam" murder found that a number of African boys had not returned to school following the summer break in 2001. The Metropolitan Police has stated clearly that it has no evidence that any of these boys have come to any harm. There were no allegations from either families or schools that the welfare of these children was at risk.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Llandudno Lord Roberts of Llandudno Spokesperson in the Lords, International Development, Spokesperson in the Lords, Welsh Affairs, Whip

My Lords, I know that the Minister shares my concern that if the allegations we have read in the newspapers or heard on radio programmes are correct, this is probably the most terrible act ever against children in the history of the United Kingdom. Will the Minister now thoroughly investigate this situation with all agencies, organisations, and Churches and report back to this House? Secondly, are Her Majesty's Government in continuous dialogue with the countries from which these children come?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right. I do share his passion and concern for issues which involve abuse of children, because we all find them abhorrent. I reassure the noble Lord that these issues are being taken absolutely seriously. It was for that reason that the Metropolitan Police carried out the review that we spoke about on the most recent occasion that we discussed this issue. These matters are being pursued.

Groups have been set up and I shall attend a meeting today with my honourable friend in another place, the Minister for Children, to discuss some of the matters that we could do together in that regard. I can assure the noble Lord that everything is being done to pursue this matter with appropriate vigour.

Photo of Viscount Bridgeman Viscount Bridgeman Spokespersons In the Lords, (Assisted By Shadow Law Officers), Spokespersons In the Lords, Northern Ireland, Deputy Chief Whip, Whips

My Lords, how many successful prosecutions have been brought for trafficking under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I do not have those figures in relation to trafficking. Noble Lords will know that we changed the law to make such prosecutions easier and I assure noble Lords that prosecutions and the approaches taken by the authorities are appropriately vigorous. I shall write to the noble Lord in relation to the figures, if we have any.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, what means of identifying trafficked children exist if they do not register at any school?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, if issues are raised in relation to any unaccompanied children who come into this country, those matters are pursued. We also respond to any information we receive. Noble Lords will know the work that Project Reflex carries out in terms of both women and children. So there is intelligence that we follow up. These issues are extremely important and it is right that this House has raised the issue of trafficked children on a number of occasions and, indeed, trafficking generally, particularly in relation to vulnerable women.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, would improved provision for private fostering enable better track to be kept of children?

Photo of Baroness Scotland of Asthal Baroness Scotland of Asthal Minister of State (Criminal Justice and Offender Management), Home Office, Minister of State (Home Office) (Criminal Justice and Offender Management)

My Lords, I know the concern that the noble Earl and others feel in relation to fostering. The noble Earl will know that in the Children Act 2004 we strengthened the notification arrangements for protecting children who are privately fostered—I assume that it is private fostering that the noble Earl is particularly concerned about. The Government believe that this will be more effective in finding out about arrangements and making appropriate checks than a bureaucratic registration scheme. We are pursuing that, but, of course, if we find that registration is necessary, the Act provides for that.