Child trafficking

Child trafficking is defined as the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt” of a child for the purpose of exploitation.

This definition comes from the United Nations Palermo Protocol, which the UK and the majority of countries around the world have adopted, making it the internationally accepted definition of human trafficking. A child is defined by the Palermo Protocol and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as any person under the age of 18. In the UK, trafficking is regarded as a form of modern slavery.

The trafficking of children is a process comprised of two distinct stages: the Act and the Purpose. This is the “recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or reception of persons, including the exchange or transfer of control over those persons … for the purpose of exploitation.”

Essentially, child trafficking is child abuse and should be treated within a child protection context. It is also a crime and abuse of an individual’s human rights.

Children may be exploited in one or more ways. Often, one form of exploitation may make the child more vulnerable to other types of abuse and exploitation; for example, a child trafficked for domestic servitude may also be sexually abused by adults in the household.

The main types of exploitation are:

Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity. This includes abuse of the child for the production of child abuse images or videos.

Domestic Servitude

Domestic servitude involves the victim being forced to work in private households. Their movement will often be restricted, and they will be forced to perform household tasks such as childcare and housekeeping over long hours and for little, if any, pay.

Forced Labour

Forced labour involves victims being compelled to work very long hours, often in arduous conditions, and to relinquish the majority, if not all, of their wages. Identity documents are retained by the traffickers, meaning the young people cannot leave or prove their identity.

Forced Criminality

Forced Criminality can be understood as the exploitation of a person to commit a crime, such as pick-pocketing, shoplifting, cannabis cultivation, drug trafficking and other similar activities that are subject to penalties and imply financial gain for the trafficker.

Organ Harvesting

Kidneys are in the greatest demand and are the only major organs that can be wholly transplanted with relatively few risks to the life of the donor.

Forced Begging

Children, including babies and young children, can be used as tools for begging.

Children may also be forced to beg alone, with the money handed to adults and gangs controlling.

Benefit Fraud

Benefit fraud commonly involves adults who exploit children to facilitate fraudulent claims of Child Benefit and Working Tax Credits.

Other Types Of Exploitation

Other activities, such as illegal adoption or forced marriage, may be considered trafficking in so far as they fulfil the constitutive elements of trafficking in human beings.


In Hillingdon agencies work closely together to identify and respond to concerns of child trafficking. The LSCB Joint Safeguarding of Children and Vulnerable Adults arriving through Heathrow Airport subcommittee supports this ensuring positive communication between Boarder Force and Children’s services in the London Borough of Hillingdon.