The Home Office confirmed more than 2,000 children who entered the UK over the last four years have been victims of human trafficking, according to new statistics.
Newly revealed data shows that the Home Office received 2,634 child refugee referrals during this time period for a scheme which supports victims of slavery.
After a child refugee has been referred onto the national referral mechanism, the Home Office assesses whether that individual has been trafficked – and whether they require long-term assistance.
And data obtained under a Freedom of Information request by The Times, shows that 2,008 of these claims resulted in confirmed cases of human trafficking.
More than 2,000 children who entered the UK over the last four years are victims of human trafficking, according to new statistics (file image of migrants on a beach in Dungeness on December 16, 2021)
Chief executive of the Refugee Council Enver Solomon said that the data reveals the horrific scale children that have been trafficked.
He told The Times: ‘It’s vital all necessary steps are taken by the police, social services and the Home Office to ensure they are kept safe as soon as they arrive here and their asylum claim is quickly processed.
‘What they have been through is unimaginable and they need a high level of support to overcome their trauma and rebuild their lives.’
It comes after three times as many migrants crossed the Channel by boat this year compared to 2020.
A record-breaking 28,381 people made the perilous journey in 2021 – dwarfing the 8,410 who made the same treacherous trip last year.
They came in at least 1,020 boats which were intercepted by UK authorities in the last 12 months. It means an average of 78 migrants arrived in three boats every day.
Newly revealed data shows that the Home Office received 2,634 child refugee referrals during this time period for a scheme which supports victims of slavery – of which 2,008 where confirmed. Pictured: File image of migrants onboard a UK Border Force vessel on December 21, 2021
By far the busiest month came in November when a staggering 6,869 arrived in 201 boats.
That is more than any previous months since the small boat crisis in the Channel began.
It also saw the record day, when 1,185 migrants arrived in 33 boats on November 11, and the second record day, when 1,131 made the trip in 28 boats five days later.
But November 24 also brought the gravest tragedy in the Channel since migrants started navigating one of the world’s busiest shipping routes by small boat.
At least 27 men, women and children all died after their rapidly deflating dinghy with a broken motor sank in the freezing cold waters.
Only two people are known to have survived the largest loss of life since the current crisis began.
The data comes as Home Office figures have shown that the number of asylum seekers pretending to be children has reached a record high.
More than 1,100 migrants who claimed to be under 18 were found to be adults in the 12 months to September.
It was the highest number since the collection of figures began in 2006.
And 66 per cent of those claiming to be children were in fact not – compared with 47 per cent in 2019/20.
Migration Watch UK, which campaigns for tougher border controls and analysed the Home Office figures, suggested people traffickers were encouraging migrants to try for special privileges.
Its report warned that false age claims could also lead to the dangerous situation of adults being placed alongside vulnerable young people in schools and housing.
The group’s chairman, Alp Mehmet, said: ‘The asylum system is so open to abuse that adults claiming to be children can be given the benefit of the doubt and be placed among minors in both accommodation and schools.
‘The risks to the safety of our children are obvious.
‘It is high time the Government stopped pandering to the immigration industry and dealt with adult migrants as such and not as what they claim to be.’
Migrants who claim to be underage receive better housing and support, a more sympathetic hearing for their asylum claim and are less likely to be detained.
The policy is to give them the benefit of the doubt if they appear to be under 25. Officials can also carry out linguistic analysis as well as assess development.
But this is to change under the Nationality and Borders Bill going through the Houses of Parliament.
Iain Duncan Smith (pictured), the former Tory leader who proposed amendments to the, said that the Nationality and Borders Bill needs to differentiate between children who have been trafficked, and those who are ‘economic migrants’
An age assessment board will oversee how decisions are made – with new scientific methods used to determine an applicant’s real age.
However Migration Watch expressed concerns that the proposals did not go far enough.
Charities and experts, including the government’s own anti-slavery commissioner, have warned that the new bill could make it harder to prosecute human traffickers and may deter victims from seeking help.
Reflecting on the number of child migrants confirmed to have been victims of human trafficking, Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader who proposed amendments to the bill, said: ‘We must separate those who have been trafficked from those who are economic migrants.’
In a joint letter released on Thursday, Dame Sara Thornton, the anti-slavery commissioner, and Dame Vera Baird, the victims’ commissioner for England and Wales, said the bill ‘singularly fails to grasp the realities of being a victim’.