Forty-two children in Northamptonshire were victims of trafficking, the second highest number in the UK, according to a new report published by a charity.
The figures were revealed in a nationwide report by ECPAT UK and Missing People and showed the county was second only to Thurrock for the number of children identified as victims or suspected victims of trafficking.
Responding to the findings, the NSPCC said the figures for Northamptonshire were very worrying.
“It is concerning that Northamptonshire was identified as a local authority with one of the highest numbers of children who were trafficked in the UK last year,” a spokesman for the charity said.
“The report reflects our own concerns that child trafficking is an increasing problem not just in Northamptonshire but in the whole of the UK. The number of children referred to the NSPCC’s Child Trafficking Advice Centre has increased by 96 per cent since 2007/08.
“And the system is already facing challenges – the Association of Directors of Children’s Services has warned that a national shortage of foster carers is putting enormous pressure on a system that has already seen the number of child migrants coming to the UK double in the last two years alone.
“Many of these children are at grave risk of harm, including sexual and criminal exploitation. Allowing any child to slip under the radar and be put in harm’s way while in the UK’s care is unacceptable.”
ECPAT UK’s report also highlighted the number of trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children going missing from care in the UK was at an “alarmingly high rate”.
The study found that more than a quarter of all trafficked children and over 500 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children went missing at least once in the year to September 2015, while 207 have not been found.
Chloe Setter, Head of Advocacy, Policy & Campaigns, ECPAT UK, said: “For too long, children who are at risk of exploitation, or who have been trafficked, have gone missing from care – sometimes repeatedly, sometimes forever. It is a national disgrace that this problem has remained neglected and these children rendered invisible by poor data collection and national coordination.”