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Child trafficking victims and legal guardians: Exploring the fulfilment of the EU trafficking directive in the context of the UK modern Slavery Act 2015 – Best practice or not fit for purpose?

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/06/2019
<mark>Journal</mark>New Journal of European Criminal Law
Issue number2
Number of pages21
Pages (from-to)107-127
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/03/19
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Child victims of trafficking are recognized as particularly vulnerable victims, who require additional protection and support and a more rigorous legal framework. The regional anti-trafficking instruments explicitly enforce the importance of protecting child trafficking victims, requiring Member States to ‘appoint a guardian or a representative for a child victim of trafficking in human beings from the moment the child is identified by the authorities’. The problem of child trafficking and exploitation has received increased attention in England and Wales in recent years, with record number of minors referred to the National Referral Mechanism in 2016. Running parallel to this are the apparent failings of the domestic social care system to safeguard not only trafficked children but also those who are seeking asylum or unaccompanied. Over a quarter of officially identified trafficked children were found to have gone missing between 2014 and 2015. Across the United Kingdom when transposing the European Union (EU) legal framework, the Government maintained that existing provisions by local authorities under their statutory child protection obligations, including social workers and independent reviewing officers, fulfilled the guardian requirements in the Directive. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 has placed significant emphasis on reforming the approach to the protection for child trafficking victims, culminating in the introduction of a specific statutory provision establishing Independent Child Trafficking Advocates (ICTAs). Such a scheme is the first guardian of its kind, designed specifically for child trafficking victims in Europe. Taking into account the recent evaluation of pilot schemes, and the slight variation in approach taken in the devolved jurisdictions of the United Kingdom, this article will consider the extent to which the protection of child trafficking victims under the jurisdiction of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 is sufficient to fulfill the legal positive obligations imposed by EU Law. This article will demonstrate that as it stands the Modern Slavery Act 2015 fulfills the obligations of the EU Trafficking Directive in relation to the protection of child trafficking victims. However, its fully effective enforcement requires further efforts in policy to ensure that these legal obligations are implemented in practice.