Home Affairs Committee Contents


Update Report (for 2008-09) on Young People at Risk of Trafficking for the Hillingdon Safeguarding Children Board

1.  Summary

  The report, which the recent Guardian article on missing Chinese young people mentions, relates to 2007 and was produced by the previous immigration agency (BIA), contained many incorrect assumptions about practice and incorrect data, and was not presented to the Safeguarding Board. As reported to previous Board meetings, a high proportion of Chinese young people (all over 16 and because of difficulties in completing the age assessments before they went missing, a number probably over 18) have gone missing. Over the last two years Hillingdon local authority have been working closely with the UK Border Agency (UKBA), who joined the Safeguarding Board, and policing agencies to disrupt the trafficking of children through Heathrow Airport and put in place a number of strategies to discourage young people from leaving the care of Hillingdon children's services. This has resulted in a both a significant reduction in the numbers arriving at Heathrow and the numbers of young people who have gone missing. In the 12 months to April 2009 31 Chinese young people arrived at Heathrow who were subsequently supported by Hillingdon Children Services. Only four of these went missing and none of them were under 16. All these cases were reported to the police and appropriate action is being taken to locate them.

2.  Practice Issues

  Immigration colleagues in UKBA based at the five terminals at Heathrow have been referring children and young people to the London Borough of Hillingdon for many years, with the first Heathrow Protocol developed in 2006. Over 90% of them are referred "out of hours" and the referral reason is either because the young person is an unaccompanied minor who wishes to claim asylum, in which case they receive services from the Asylum Service Team or they are denied entry into the UK and need safeguarding, in which case they receive services from Referral and Assessment Team. UKBA staff at Colnbrook and Harmondsworth detention centres also refer young people who state that they are not an adult. These referrals go direct to the Asylum Service. Individuals also self refer by presenting themselves direct. In all of these cases there is a need to assess the individual's safety and consider what risk of exploitation and abuse they maybe exposed to. However those referrals that come direct from the terminals at Heathrow carry the most significant risk in relation to Trafficking.

  The nationalities of these children have been very wide ranging in general and have also included concentrations of specific groups at various times. This has included at various periods of times, large numbers of Nigerian children, Jamaican children and more latterly Chinese young people. One of the defining factors in relation to both the Jamaican and Nigerian cohorts was that family members were often already in the UK and a predominant motivator as to why the children (and they were generally children rather than young people) had been brought into the UK was to be re-united with family.

  See Unicef report 2007 http://www.unicef.org.uk/campaigns/publications/pdf/rightshere.pdf

  The predominant motivators are not the same for Chinese young people. They are "older" young people who claim to be 16 or 17 years of age. Almost all visually pass as this age. They often arrive in small groups as well as individually. They rarely have any documents that identify them and colleagues from UKBA Heathrow Intelligence Unit are of the view that a "facilitator" will be involved in getting them aboard aircraft and into the UK.

  [See CEOP 1st Scoping exercise http://www.childtrafficking.com/Docs/ceop_07_project_uk_0708.pdf ]

  Not only can their entry into the UK be described as organised, it is also recognised that it costs a significant amount of money, money that the young people would not generally have access too. In addition to this there are strong indicators that they are given instructions as to who to call when they arrive in the UK and despite not being able to speak English, or have funds are able to "disappear" within a few hours. Again it is unlikely that they could achieve this on their own. We know from research that the profile of young people going missing in this way correlates strongly with the profile of trafficked children.

  [See ECPAT research 2007 http://www.ecpat.org.uk/downloads/ECPAT_UK_Missing_Out_2007.pdf ] .

3.  Policy & Strategy

  The partner agencies in the LSCB in Hillingdon operate on the assumption that Children who go missing need to be protected and safeguarded. The LSCB also operates on the assumption that Child trafficking is a form of child abuse; therefore the statutory Working Together procedures are applicable. All London Boroughs are bound by the Pan London child protection procedures, which first came into force in November 2003, and were further updated in November 2007.

  http://www.londonscb.gov.uk/files/procedures/ProcedureforSafeguardingTraffickedChildren_001.doc

  The London Child Protection Procedures Edition 2 Chapter 9.9 Child Trafficking and Exploitation sets out the expectations and duties Local Authorities have in respect of safeguarding children in this area. This, together with the Hillingdon Local Safeguarding Children's Board provides the mandate to treat this particular problem as one of trafficking. Both the LSCB and the Trafficking sub group of the main board are multi agency groups with representatives from a wide range of agencies including Police and UKBA as well as CEOP, ECPAT and NSPCC.

  The National Referral Mechanism for Child Trafficking has a checklist of 60 indicators for professionals to use. Most are relevant to children found "in country" having already arrived in the UK via a port. Out of the 60 indicators, no more than 18 are likely to be relevant for children and young people stopped at a port arriving into the UK. Of these 18, Chinese young people as a group met at least 13 and some individuals more than this.

  As with age assessments, defining a child as having been trafficked is a matter of professional judgement not an exact science. The Chinese young people stand out as a group and have a clear profile that demonstrates they should be treated as trafficked children.

4.  Operational Procedures

  During the course of 2007 more robust service delivery processes were developed by the key agencies; Police Paladin Team, Immigration and LBH that were designed to address the specific issues around Chinese young people as well as all other referrals. On 12 March 2007 a strategy meeting attended by the above agencies considered the safety of Chinese young people at MCH and how best to tackle the high numbers choosing to abscond. The meeting concluded that all the evidence supports the view that Chinese young people arrive in the UK with instructions as to who to contact and where to abscond too. It was known that these young people had also gone missing from other addresses as well and that there was no evidence to support the notion that they were specifically targeted at MCH. It was recognised that Chinese young people arrived at Heathrow outside of ordinary office hours and that they would often make themselves "known" late in the evening. It was also noted that public holidays and weekends had higher numbers of referrals and that often the young people would go missing before the next working day had commenced. As a consequence of this it became clear that the first few hours were crucial and that all agencies had to work together to achieve change.

  Following "policing" activity UKBA intelligence unit reported that a number of adults had been arrested in respect of Chinese young people, the arrivals at Heathrow stopped almost immediately and no new arrivals were referred for several months during 2008.

  By training staff to see young people as at risk of "Trafficking" (rather than solely asylum seekers) the approach of staff across agencies associated with Heathrow has had an impact on the behaviour of these young people. They are given Information about trafficking, and are told about the risks of being exploited. This approach has been reflected in the National Guidance issued by the Home office relating to children who may have been trafficked.

  [See Home Office National Guidance 2007] http://www.londonscb.gov.uk/files/resources/library_docs/safeguarding_children_who_may_have_been_trafficked.pdf

  Therefore the approach adopted for ALL new referrals at Heathrow from a practice perspective is to assume that they have been trafficked until positive indicators are identified to suggest otherwise. Positive indicators in this context could be for example family members coming forward and requesting to be re-united with the subject or family from the country of origin wanting to have the subject returned to their care. With Chinese young people no such positive indicators have been identified.

  All young people who go Missing in Hillingdon are reported to the Borough Police using a standard missing person's form, giving all the relevant details. From January 2008, agreement was reached with the Borough Police stipulating that those young people who go missing after arriving through the Airport are reported directly to the Police Missing Persons Unit, rather than the main Police station in Uxbridge. Each young person who goes missing after arriving through the airport is also formally reported missing to the relevant caseworker in UKBA by telephone and/or in writing.

  Prior to December 2008, there was considerable uncertainty about which law enforcement agencies should respond to child trafficking issues and missing children, at both at the local and the National level. This did lead to delays in progressing the interviews of potential victims but reflects the unique demands of the Airport. To address these concerns, the Home Office at the CEOP offices in London facilitated a policy meeting on 9 December 2008. The following was agreed:

    (i) Across the Metropolitan Police area, Child Abuse Investigation Team (CAIT) will be the local police team responsible for conducting child-trafficking investigations—effective from January 2009. Hillingdon social care teams will liaise with the local CAIT team in Hillingdon, about any new cases of suspected child trafficking.

    (ii) The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) will take a national lead in relation to policy for child trafficking. This will mean ensuring that law enforcement agencies are able to share information appropriately on missing children & child trafficking.

    (iii) The UK Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) is the national organisation for co-ordinating and responding to child-trafficking cases, and will be in a position to task the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) wherever the need is identified. The social care teams in Hillingdon will continue to share with UKHTC all intelligence about children who are missing, or who may have been trafficked, [as well as UK Border Agency, as appropriate].

    (iv) Local Safeguarding Children Boards will continue to have the statutory responsibility for monitoring effective arrangements for child trafficking at a local level. This will include ensuring the borough police forces are able to deal with issues of missing children effectively. Hillingdon social care teams will continue to report Missing Children to the Borough police in Hillingdon. Any resource issues will be picked up with the Borough Commander.

  From April 2009 the National Referral Mechanism came into operation, which requires the completion of a Child Trafficking referral form, which is sent to the UK Human Trafficking Centre.

5.  Responding to Referrals from Heathrow [see Appendix for Flow Chart]

  The funding from the Home Office via UKBA for a dedicated airport Intake Team has allowed LBH to provide a rapid and robust response to referrals from UKBA at Heathrow.

  Referrals to LBH are made by colleagues from UKBA, usually those on duty at Passport Control. In respect of Chinese young people, the circumstances are usually as follows:

    — The young person or sometimes small group of young people make themselves known to a UKBA officer at Passport Control or they are found in the areas between disembarking from the aircraft and passport control.

    — The young people are taken to a secure area whilst an interpreter is requested.

    — During interview the young people confirm that they have no documentation that identifies them. They rarely give any information as to what flight they arrived on, who has paid for the tickets, who they travelled with or any information apart from their name, date of birth and nationality. They also indicate that they wish to claim asylum. At this point a referral is made to LBH.

  Investigation by colleagues in UKBA intelligence unit identified that Chinese young people arrive on flights from all over the world. A "facilitator" provides them with the documents necessary to board the aircraft and once en route takes the documents back. From that moment on the facilitator will typically not have any more interaction with the young person(s). After the aircraft lands at Heathrow the person acting as a facilitator will present to passport control, as if there are a "normal" traveller, in the usual way and providing they have the correct documents will be allowed to enter the UK undetected. The young people, meanwhile, will usually not go straight to passport control. They often wait for significant periods of time and also on occasions go into the toilets and change their clothes. This is in an effort to make it hard to link them to any particular flight or facilitator. It is also usual with Chinese young people that they only make themselves known to the authorities outside of usual "working hours" of Monday to Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm. The overwhelming majority arrive in this way and there are often high concentrations of arrivals during public holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

  On receiving a referral and after initial screening staff from LBH attend the relevant terminal within one hour. UKBA staff make arrangements to allow the LBH staff member to go "airside", through security. This ensures the assessment process can take place in a secure area and ensures an interpreter is available so that the young person can be fully engaged. LBH and UKBA have devised a referral form and screening form that each agency completes and shares immediately with the other. The screening form includes within it a risk assessment and a protection plan for the young person. When a new referral is made the following processes take place:

    (i) UKBA complete their referral form which captures the basic demographics of the young person, whether they have documents to confirm their identity, the circumstances in which they have arrived and whether there are any age assessment issues.

    (ii) LBH staff complete a separate referral form. This captures information on the needs of the young person including their emotional well being, comments further on age assessment issues and crucially records the protection plan for the young person and risk assessment.

    (iii) Young person is spoken to directly with interpreter. According to age and understanding the young person is given information about trafficking, verbally and in writing, the protection plan is explained to them and key messages about our intention to keep them safe. Part of this process includes searching luggage and requesting mobile phones be handed over for safe keeping to avoid direct contact with potential traffickers.

    (iv) The protection plan and risk assessment are completed before worker and subject leave the secure area at Heathrow. The worker, based on the information gathered decides where to place the young person. A copy of the protection plan is handed over to whoever has responsibility for the young person at their placement.

    (v) With certain "high risk" cohorts of young people ie Chinese young people further specific conversations about trafficking take place. This includes stating "we believe you may have been trafficked, that you may have been given instructions to contact people once you get in the UK, we recommend you don't do this, if however you do abscond you can come back, remember the phone contact details of LBH etc".

6.  Support to Young People

  Young people aged under 16 (unless the initial assessment suggests that they are older than 16) are placed in registered children's facilities, either children's homes or foster care. If the young person is aged 16 plus, they are usually placed at Margaret Cassidy House (MCH). No young people aged under 16 are placed at MCH, as it is not a Children's Home.

  Of the young people at MCH, on average a third of the residents at any one time are new arrivals to the UK where the initial paramount functions of the asylum service are to assess the age of the young person and address any Safeguarding concerns—particularly in relation to trafficking. These functions are addressed with each young person through completing Core Assessments. NCH Hillingdon Children's Rights service has a dedicated UASC advocate. A separate report is available on the advocacy projects work with UASC in Hillingdon—young people's concerns are focused on their day-to-day care arrangements, education and issues relating to their immigration status. UASC are routinely provided with interpreters and relevant documents are translated.

  Margaret Cassidy House (MCH) is a 47 bedded purpose built accommodation for unaccompanied asylum seeking minors age 16-18. It is situated in a quiet residential street in the heart of a local village. Due to its proximity to Heathrow the unit is ideal for placing newly arrived young people. For this purpose the unit has an additional three emergency rooms. MCH accommodation is of a very high standard consisting of self-contained units with own kitchen, bathroom, TV. There is a large communal lounge, computer room and outside garden/recreational area. Following refurbishment in 2005 the unit has full CCTV installed and security staff during the evenings and weekends. CCTV cameras are fully operational and allow for all communal areas and front and rear of the building to be monitored. Camera recording is routinely stored for up to 28 days or for longer if required. All permanent residents of the unit are provided with a key fob which they have to use to enter and exit the building. This electronic device allows staff to monitor/track the movements of residents in and out of the building. For additional security each fob is linked to a photograph of the young person so that it is possible to confirm the identity of residents. There is a full time receptionist during the week who monitors movement in and out of the building. Support staff work from 9am-8pm Mon-Fri and 10am-6pm on Sat and Sun. A security officer is on duty at all other times, overnight and at weekends. All in coming/outgoing calls are monitored (CCTV cameras can zoom in on the residents phone which has enlarged digits).

  Staff at MCH are sensitised to patterns of behaviour which may indicate that a young person may abscond—such as hanging around/watching doors and exits/not communicating with other young people. Close working with the Police has included immediate callouts if staff have a suspicion that a young person is about to abscond or there are any other concerns about phone calls/numbers. New arrivals are not given a key until an Initial Assessment has been completed and decision made regarding whether MCH is a suitable placement. Where appropriate support staff will accompany new arrivals if they wish to leave the building or arrange for them to be accompanied by another resident. However staff do not have the legal powers to detain any young person.

  Room 12, the subject of some comment (which directly overlooks the road), has not been used since 2006 for Chinese or other young people considered to be "high risk" of absconding after the first couple of Chinese new arrivals absconded via that window. The windows in all emergency rooms have been further restricted, in terms of opening, so that they can't be climbed out of. For Health & Safety reasons the windows cannot be fully secured.

  UASC are generally keen to learn English, and all young people have access to English classes. All newly arrived young people are referred to Asphaleia (a voluntary funded project) within days of arrival so that at the earliest opportunity they are able to access basic ESOL and education that will assist their integration into the education system. As a result all newly arrived young people are signposted into a local college at the earliest opportunity. In addition to this the residents of the unit benefit from access to weekly ESOL and IT support provided by student volunteers from Brunel and Royal Holloway Universities.

  All UASC and Safeguarding cases arriving through Heathrow have an allocated worker irrespective of whether they are "looked after". Not all the allocated workers are social workers, others are experienced personal advisers, and social workers are allocated based on the needs of the young person. There is no requirement that 16 or 17 year olds—("eligible" and "relevant" young people under the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000) are required to have an allocated social worker—they are required to have a Personal Adviser. There is full health support with dedicated medical and mental health services available to UASC, including the Well-Being Project (funded by the Department of Health).

7.  Proposed Developments for 2009-10:

    (a) Although it is difficult to identify one single measure which has been effective, improved multi-agency working has provided an effective framework, in particularly improved "policing" activity and the development of the Intake Team which has allowed the rapid response as outlined above. Funding for this team ends 31 March 2010 and resolving uncertainty of funding in relation to this team is an urgent priority.

    (b) Subject to additional funding being made available from Government it is proposed to appoint a full time trafficking lead manager (at POD grade), who can take a lead on Policy Development, Management Information and complex practice. This manager would set up quality assurance systems for chairing complex strategy meetings for Missing children and

    (c) Operational managers from Paladin Police, UKBA and the airport Intake Team are currently considering whether monitoring and tracking could be improved by meeting every fortnight, using "MAPPA principles" to consider all new referrals collectively and to complete the NRM where appropriate. The current practice is to meet when prompted by specific case issues.

    (d) Contact has been made with the Red Cross in Denmark, as it was identified that many of the Chinese Young people come to Britain via that country. The Red Cross have been handing out our leaflet warning about the risk of trafficking in the UK. We intend to develop this international work by identifying the transit airports for other groups of children and young people who are at risk of going missing eg Afghanis. This work will be done in conjunction with our partner agencies in the Trafficking and Runaways sub group and advice will be sought from the Government in relation to progressing this preventive agenda. Further work to be undertaken to ensure that targeted leaflets are developed and translated into the top ten languages spoken by the children and young people arriving through the airport.

    (e) In the last two years, the LSCB in Hillingdon have delivered extensive multi-agency training on child trafficking, missing children procedures and private fostering. The courses provide practical information about the risks such young people face, identification in relation to behaviour, how to over come mistrust from the young person, assessment of risk and planning. This training is sponsored by the trafficking and runaways sub-group. In the current year, an advanced course in child trafficking is being delivered to build up the levels of expertise within the practitioner group and managers working with this group of vulnerable children. It is expected that this training will further strengthen the inter-agency safeguarding work at the airport terminals.

    (f) The Council has been in recent contact with BAA, the owners of the Airport terminals. BAA have agreed to work with Hillingdon LSCB through its Trafficking & Runaways sub-group, to address the issue of airlines being more vigilant about carrying unaccompanied minors who may be at risk of being trafficked. We are expecting this work with BAA to reduce the number of unaccompanied minors being brought into the country, and also to identify earlier those at risk of being trafficked, or going missing.

    (g) The Safeguarding Board would welcome further development of national standards of best practice in relation to safeguarding children at "ports of entry". Specifically the Safeguarding Board would welcome further guidance on the National Referral Mechanism and how it is applied to children and young people identified at ports of entry to the UK. It would be helpful to have comment on when and by whom the NRM should be completed and a separate set of "indicators" relevant to children and young people identified at ports.

    (h) The Safeguarding Board is progressing the Laming recommendations, which will further strengthen the accountability and scrutiny of agencies.

June 2009



 
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