By Robert Booth
Aprile 25, 2009 / The Guardian
The rate of recorded child trafficking in Britain has increased by almost 50% in two years, according to figures released yesterday by the Home Office's child exploitation and online protection centre (Ceop).
In all, 325 children from 52 countries have been identified by government agencies in the latest survey - from March 2007 to February 2008 - as potential victims of trafficking, with many brought into the UK for activities including prostitution, illegal labour, forced marriage and illegal adoption.
The increase follows Ceop's first survey in 2006.
More than 100 were known to be sexually exploited while 36 were forced to work, some as street criminals, domestic servants, drug smugglers or cannabis farmers as well as for benefit fraud, forced marriage and illegal adoption, Ceop said.
"A crime where the children themselves sometimes don't even realise they are victims is a complex crime to crack," said Ceop's chief executive, Jim Gamble.
Christine Beddoe, chief executive of Ecpat (UK), which campaigns for an end to child exploitation, said: "This is happening across the country, not just in London where police and immigration operations, such as Operation Paladin at Heathrow, are at their best."
The figures said the largest group - 74 cases - came from China, followed by British children, the second largest at 46. In addition, 24 children came from Afghanistan, 22 from Nigeria, 22 from Romania and 14 from Vietnam. Anecdotal intelligence suggests there may have been more victims from Afghanistan and African countries.
Sixty-eight per cent of all suspected victims were female.