AFRUCA’s response to the issue of child trafficking is premised on the fact that the trafficking of children is first and foremost a child safeguarding and child protection issue, rather than an immigration issue. For this reason, we are firmly of the opinion that efforts to tackle the trafficking of children and provide support for individual victims must abide by and correlate with UK child protection laws, regulation, rules and practices.
Over the past years, there has been a consistent growth in the number of separated African children arriving in the UK correlating with the increasing population of Africans in the country. Children and young people come in unaccompanied, or as unaccompanied asylum seeking young people or with others who are not their parents or immediate family members as privately fostered children. It is our firm belief that a significant proportion of such young people are victims of trafficking and that without appropriate intervention, most of them will end up as victims of abuse and exploitation at the hand of their “carers” and other people.
Guided by the 4 Ps as laid down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, our objective is to protect children and young people from trafficking; provide assistance to child victims of trafficking; encourage child participation in all our programmes and prosecute people who have been involved in this hideous crime.
AFRUCA’s Anti-Child Trafficking Project is currently funded by Comic Relief, The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and Awards for All. Their support has enabled us to expand the scope of the Anti-Child Trafficking programme whilst developing innovative strategies and robust processes of intervention. Over 290 young victims of trafficking have been supported in different ways between 2007 till date through the project.
AFRUCA’s Matrix of Services for Children and young Victims of Trafficking
Signposting and Referral
We run a referral service aimed at helping trafficked children and young people access specialist legal advice, health, education, housing, social care services and welfare benefits.
Children and young people who have been assessed to be victims of trafficking receive on going 1–2–1 counselling and support from their project worker at AFRUCA Monday-Friday (during normal working hours) and in emergency situations. Young people who access our One-to-One service have this to say:
“I have been immensely helped by the one-to-one support as it has enabled me to get advice with personal and educational issues if and when needed.”
“One-on-one support has made me feel good, given me someone to talk to.”
“I don’t know where I’d be if not for AFRUCA. I’d have nowhere to go. I’m not sure about other charities.”
“AFRUCA is always there for me, helped me get counselling, talked to my key worker.”
“I don’t have to deal with everything myself. There’s something for me to rely on, with support and structure.”
“AFRUCA changed my life. I’m much more happy and independent.”
Through our Survivors Forum, young people are able to come together to offer and provide each other with mutual support and assistance. The forum has also helped young people in fostering good relationships, building trust and having mutual respect for one another as well as developing good friendships and strong support system within the group. Young people themselves take turn in organising this event on a monthly basis. Below are what some of our young people had to say about the Peer Group Support:
“Young people’s activities have helped me to build my confidence and made me more independent.”
“Young people’s activities have given me a group of people who know me, and new, interesting experiences.”
“The young people’s activities have helped me to build on strengths and socialise.”
“Young people’s activities have helped me to meet new people and come together to do things and stay away from loneliness. It helps my confidence and self-esteem, and helps me socialise.”
Theatre for Development Project
AFRUCA has established a Theatre for Development Project that offers drama, dance, music, and poetry as a creative and culturally appropriate alternative to available psychological and therapeutic services. This project seeks to address some of the psychological and emotional needs of the young people using our services while helping them to gain new skills like public speaking. This project is very popular amongst the young people because it has had significant impact on participants’ feelings of self worth, expression, confidence and achievement. The young people held a very successful performance in front of an audience of 80 people at an event held in May 2013. The feedback received from the audience was very positive and they received a standing ovation for their performance.
Here are some of the feedbacks of the young people following the completion of the project:
“The ability to communicate through the art of gestures. Also, dramatization and the art of performing.”
“Head up when you walk – don’t look weak or people will target you.”
“Drama experience has been good – I’ve never had that before.”
“I have learnt that when you work hard, you can achieve. Stay positive. Use initiative. I also learnt effective communication skills through drama.”
Participatory DVD Project
The underlying objective of this project is about safety and the ability young survivors of trafficking form Africa telling their stories to other young African children who might be at risk. This participatory video project enables young people to tell their stories to the outside world. It is about empowering young people and giving them the voice to speak out against child trafficking by sharing their trafficking experiences. Most importantly, the video produced by the young people is a vital campaign tool for our work both in the UK and in Africa to help educate other young people about the risks of human trafficking, exploitation and how to better protect themselves. Through participating in this project, some young people have developed an interest in video making thereby opening up a new employment route /opportunity for them.
Music for Development Project
The Music for Development Project comes against the backdrop of the Theatre for Development Project and therefore uses music, poetry and dance as an empowerment tool for change for young survivors of trafficking with the aim that participants will be inspired to become more expressive and also gain lifelong skills like verbal communication techniques, team-work, self-esteem and self-confidence. The young people recorded their first album titled : ‘I am a Survivor’ and it has got three tracks where young people shared their experiences of trafficking and how victims can overcome such challenges.
Here are some of the feedbacks of the young people following the completion of the project:
“I learnt that I shouldn’t let what happened to me in the past dictate my future… because of the programme I am starting to feel that I am a fighter and strong.”
“I have started to believe and trust myself… I can’t wait to get empowered and improve my low self esteem.”
“Composing a song or writing a song from start, meeting other people, socialising, having a laugh and great time, making new friends.”
We work closely with crime prevention agencies in the investigation of cases, often acting as expert witnesses in immigration and criminal cases. We have witnessed the successful prosecution and conviction of a pastor linked to the trafficking and exploitation of one of our service users. Also, four of our service users successfully brought a civil case against the Metropolitan Police Service for professional negligence in failing to deal with their reports of trafficking and exploitation. The court ordered them to be paid some compensation for their ordeal.
AFRUCA sits on various national and international advisory boards to influence policies and practices on counter trafficking issues. We are a member of the UK Anti Trafficking Monitoring Group which monitors the British Government’s implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings in the UK. We have presented papers at various national and international conferences to help raise awareness and inform about trends and developments in child trafficking. In 2013, we were one of the key NGOs invited to give oral and written evidence highlighting key issues that we would like the government to address in the proposed Modern Day Slavery Bill. Here is a link to AFRUCA’s written evidence (Pls insert a link to the document titled ‘AFRUCA’s Written Evidence to the Modern Slavery Bill Evidence Review”). In addition, AFRUCA is working with other UK NGOs to start addressing the issues relating to “Baby Factories”. A piece of research has been commissioned on this issue.
Community Awareness Raising
Community engagement is a core element of our project. We run regular educational and sensitisation programmes to help improve knowledge and understanding of the issue of human trafficking and how to help protect victims. AFRUCA continues to hold high profile community events in both London and Manchester with the aim of increase community and public awareness on the impact of human trafficking among African communities across London. Examples are our landmark community events at the House of Commons in February 2010 and July 2013 both of which have helped to initiate on-going dialogue between stakeholders. We also hold educational activities for practitioners to help improve their knowledge and skills about this issue so they can better safeguard victims. An example is our series of International Seminars:“Breaking the Cycle of Fear: Witchcraft, Juju and Safeguarding Victims of Human Trafficking” held in November 2009, January and June 2010. Read the report here. During our 7 Day Activism Week Against Trafficking in 2013, we held two high profile seminars in London and the House of Common and chaired by Meg Hillier MP. The second seminar was held in Manchester and was chaired by the Ian Rush, Chair, Manchester Safeguarding Children Board.
AFRUCA in Nigeria
The best long term solution to end human trafficking is to tackle the “supply” problem at its source. Nigeria is the chief source of children trafficked into the UK for various forms of exploitation. As an International NGO working in Nigeria, we are working on the ground with various local partners to “denounce the better life syndrome” and help combat some of the factors that lead to children being trafficked. In addition, we are collaborating with others in Nigeria to help increase awareness of the issues around Baby Factories. It is a known fact that many of the babies illegally adopted by UK residents from Nigeria have been traced to baby Factories in Nigeria.
The Voices of Young People Matter
Child participation is a core element in all our programmes and services because we believe that the voices of young people need to be heard. Hence, we constantly seek their feedback through periodic evaluations of the services we offer. Due to their continued participation, we have been able to incorporate their suggestions into our ongoing Theatre/Music for Development Projects, the Participatory Video Project and the Survivors’ Forum. Some of our services users are also involved in our advocacy work. For example, in 2011, one of our service users spoke at a seminar organised by AFRUCA where she highlighted ways in which children and young people who are victims of trafficking for domestic slavery can be easily identified and protected by social services or the police.
Feedback and Independent Evaluation of the Project
AFRUCA’s Anti-Child Trafficking project was borne out of the need to provide the much needed support for African children and young people who are victims of trafficking. The project design and development is a combination of our specialist knowledge and experiences in the area of child trafficking; having unique links with the African communities and working at the policy level to prevent the trafficking of children and young people. As a service provider, providing one-to-one support for survivors, we welcome on board the recommendations of these young people into our on-going programmes as well.
Feedback from the 2012 evaluation of AFRUCA’s Anti-Trafficking Project highlighted the impact of our work in:
“Raising awareness concerning the causes and consequences of trafficking and in supporting the development of improved practices by service providers involved with children and young people who may have been abused”
The report also identified the need for AFRUCA to retain the breadth of its work and suggests:
“AFRUCA will require additional resources if it is to be able to put the experience and expertise it has gained to good effect and, in particular, if it is to be able to play a much more significant role in the development of policy related to trafficking.”
The independent evaluation of AFRUCA’s “Safeguarding African Children from Trafficking in London and the South of England” project which chronicles AFRUCA’s work with African children/young people trafficked into the UK for various exploitative purposes for the past 3 years has been published and available to read at:
AFRUCA – April 2015