Update Report (for 2008-09) on Young People
at Risk of Trafficking for the Hillingdon Safeguarding Children
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
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
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.
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
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 investigationseffective
from January 2009. Hillingdon social care teams will liaise with
the local CAIT team in Hillingdon, about any new cases of suspected
(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,
(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
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
(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
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 concernsparticularly
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
Hillingdonyoung 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
Staff at MCH are sensitised to patterns of behaviour
which may indicate that a young person may abscondsuch
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 workerthey
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
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.