Robert Buckland, Conservative MP for South Swindon, has been joined by celebrity campaign supporter Martine McCutcheon to hand over a huge petition at No.10 Downing Street calling for greater protection for victims of child trafficking in the UK.
The petition, launched in July 2010 by ECPAT UK and The Body Shop UK, has been signed by an incredible 735,889 people and is the largest petition to be handed to the Coalition Government to date. The petition calls on the UK Government to introduce a system of guardianship for child victims of trafficking.
Every year, hundreds of children from over 50 countries – some as young as 11 years old – are trafficked to and exploited in the UK. While trafficking for sexual exploitation remains the most common form of child trafficking in the UK, children are also trafficked to the country for other types of abuse including labour exploitation, forced participation in criminal activities, forced marriage, illegal adoption and domestic servitude.
ECPAT UK and The Body Shop UK are therefore specifically calling on the Government to offer greater care and protection to child victims of trafficking by ensuring every child is provided with a guardian to look after them. A system of guardianship would mean that:
· every child victim of trafficking would have someone with legal authority to support them, advocate on their behalf and take decisions based on their best interests.
· every child victim of trafficking would receive the educational, medical, practical and legal support they need to help rebuild their lives.
· every child victim of trafficking would be protected and prevented from facing further exploitation and harm from their traffickers.
Robert Buckland MP said, “Children who have been trafficked will often have faced appalling situations of exploitation and abuse. They desperately need the support of a designated adult who, in the absence of a parent, can take decisions on their behalf and in their best interests and ensure they have access to safe accommodation, education and the medical, practical and legal support they need to help rebuild their lives. I thank all the people in my constituency who signed the petition and join them and thousands of others around the UK in urging the Prime Minister to provide these extremely vulnerable children with the support and protection they need.”
The UK petition forms part of a global three-year partnership between The Body Shop and ECPAT International to combat child trafficking. Petitions have also been launched in 50 countries around the world and the current global signature total stands at 5.9 million. The global total will be submitted to the UN later this year in a united call for action.