New research revealed as MPs and peers demand rewrite of Modern Slavery Bill

At least 10 children are trafficked every week in the UK and yet new research by the leading children’s organisation UNICEF UK reveals that 91% of Britons do not see the UK as a hotspot for child trafficking.

UNICEF UK warns that potentially thousands more trafficked children remain unidentified in the UK, facing a life of violence, exploitation and abuse.

“Child trafficking is a horrific yet largely hidden crime in the UK with our poll revealing that many people don’t realise the extent to which it’s happening here,” says Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK.

Even when trafficked children are identified they remain vulnerable and separated from their families. They face frightening interviews with various authorities and don’t always receive the protection they need.

And though the Government will introduce a new Modern Slavery Bill in coming months, which could provide an opportunity to protect trafficked children, UNICEF UK does not believe the current draft Bill is strong enough to keep children safe. 

“UNICEF UK is calling on the UK Government to ensure guardians are included in the Modern Slavery Bill, so that trafficked children are protected by law and have a chance to rebuild their lives,” says Anita Tiessen. “Guardians must be independent, established in law and given legal powers so that children get the support they need to stay safe.”

The poll results comes as parliamentarians release a report recommending the Bill be strengthened to protect victims of trafficking, including by providing guardians.

Upon learning the scale of child trafficking in the UK, 81% of British adults agree that the Coalition Government should do more to protect trafficked children. And 76% agree that giving trafficked children a legal guardian is the right thing to do.

The research come as UNICEF UK releases a series of photographs to highlight the hidden nature of child trafficking in the UK – with children painted in camouflage to blend into the background of typical everyday British street scenes.

“These striking pictures highlight that children who are trafficked in the UK are often unknown and unseen. We need to give these hidden children the protection they deserve and make them visible again,” says Anita Tiessen.

UNICEF UK is calling on Theresa May to include legal guardians in the Modern Slavery Bill – join the campaign at



Notes for editors:



High resolution pictures are available:


ComRes interviewed 2,008 adults in Great Britain online between the 28th and 30th March 2014. Data tables are available at ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Just one in ten adults in Britain (9%) Scotland (9%), Wales (8%) and London (9%) say that children are in danger of being trafficked in the UK, citing the United Kingdom in their top three countries or regions in which they believe children are in danger of being trafficked.

The children photographed for UNICEF UK are from St Paul’s C of E Primary School – a UNICEF Rights Respecting School. The school was founded by William Wilberforce – a leading force in the movement to abolish the slave trade. 

For further information, please contact:

Claire Blackburn, UNICEF UK, + 44 (0)20 7375

Alice Klein, UNICEF UK, + 44 (0)20 7375 6082 


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. UNICEF UK raises funds for UNICEF’s emergency and development work and advocates for lasting change for children everywhere. We are a UK registered charity, supported entirely by voluntary donations. We do not receive any money from the UN. For more information, please visit