Sun 2 Sep 2007

Child smuggling figures ‘tip of iceberg’

RICHARD ELIAS

FIGURES showing that one child is smuggled into Scotland every week could be just the tip of the iceberg, according to campaigners.

Save the Children is now calling on the police to take more action to clamp down on the problem.

While youngsters from China, the Indian subcontinent and Eastern Europe have been discovered on Scotland’s streets, the majority come from Africa.

Many are brought into the UK to become unpaid workers in homes, either for relatives or for “friends” who have paid their family for the child’s services.

Others are used by organised crime gangs to take part in benefit frauds and other scams.

But there are some, it is believed only a handful, who are forced to work in Scotland’s sex trade as child prostitutes.

In 2005, figures showed that 30 children were brought into Scotland by traffickers, but the most recent statistics show that last year the number had increased to 51.

Richard Morran, a senior official with Save the Children in Scotland, said one of the biggest drawbacks to trying to tackle the problem is that no one knows precisely the scale of the problem.

He said: “I do not think there is a central co-ordinator to monitor this. We just do not know what the scale of the problem is in Scotland. We think that the Scottish Drug and Crime Enforcement Agency should play a role, but the Executive is also looking at the issue.”