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March 18, 2009 / BBC News
Children as young as three are being trafficked to Wales from China, Bangladesh and Nigeria for sex, drugs and domestic servitude, a study shows.
Of 32 cases referred to, there were more instances of boys than girls.
The children were described as being victims of sexual exploitation, street crime, domestic servitude, cannabis production and forced labour.
The report, Bordering on Concern, was carried out for the children's commissioner for Wales, Keith Towler.
The study, conducted by children's protection organisation ECPAT UK, was asked to find an evidence base for child trafficking in Wales.
Authors of the report said: "Children who may have been trafficked are extremely vulnerable.
"Many will have experienced at least one form of abuse, whether physical, sexual, emotional or neglect, often of an extreme nature.
"Children are raped, beaten, tortured, deprived of their basic needs and enslaved.
"They are moved from their country of origin to one or more new countries, by individuals or gangs who have tricked or deceived them."
The study examined the levels of awareness of child trafficking issues among social services and selected voluntary sector organisations and the levels of cooperation.
It also looked at how identified cases of child trafficking had been dealt with by social services.
The report said: "Evidence was found of confirmed and suspected cases of child trafficking encountered by social services, the voluntary sector and the police.
"Data was gathered from 41 practitioners who described 32 cases that caused them concern."
As a result of the report, a number of recommendations have been made by Mr Towler.
It includes setting up of an all-Wales group on trafficking by the assembly government.
He said he hoped the research would "help shift the culture of disbelief" that has surrounded the issue in Wales.
"For child trafficking to be tackled effectively there first has to be an acceptance that it exists," he said.
"The sample we've got here is small but is undoubtedly only the tip of the iceberg.
"I hope this research will help shift the culture of disbelief and that practitioners will start working together to ensure all children and young people in Wales - wherever they originate - enjoy the same rights, including the right to be safeguarded."
Christine Beddoe, from child protection organisation ECPAT UK, who led the study added: "Trafficked children were found throughout Wales but there was evidence of a number of barriers to identifying children and keeping them safe.
"Of these barriers the most worrying was that professionals didn't believe it could happen. This left children vulnerable.
"Government agencies must actively promote child trafficking as an issue that can and does happen in their local area."
The Welsh Assembly Government said: "The assembly government issued Safeguarding Children Who May Have Been Trafficked in April 2008 to professionals and volunteers from all agencies to help them effectively safeguard children who might have been trafficked.
"The Welsh Assembly Government has met the children's commissioner's office to discuss the report and will be considering its recommendations carefully, before deciding what action is required."