Like many Vietnamese children, Hien was brought to Britain for a life of modern slavery. He ended up in prison on cannabis offences. We report on the gangs expanding across the UK and efforts to help their victims.
Hien was 10 when he arrived in Britain. He did not know where he was or where he had been. He knew only that he was here to work. Since he emerged from the back of a lorry after crossing from Calais seven years ago, his experience has been one of exploitation and misery.
He has been a domestic slave, been trafficked into cannabis factories, been abused and beaten and was eventually prosecuted and sent to prison. It has been a life of terror, isolation and pain.
Hien’s story is not unique. He is one of an estimated 3,000 Viet
namese children in forced labour in the UK, used for financial gain by criminal gangs running cannabis factories, nail bars, garment factories, brothels and private homes. Charged up to £25,000 for their passage to the UK, these children collectively owe their traffickers almost £75m.
MODERN SLAVERY IN NUMBERS
The Home Office estimates that there are between 10,000 and 13,000 victims of modern-day slavery in the UK.
Estimates suggest that there could be 100 children trafficked every week into the UK. Albanian and Nigerian females, including adults, make up the largest groups being referred to agencies as potential victims, while Vietnamese people make up the largest number of males referred. British children make up the largest group of trafficked young people, while Vietnamese children are the largest number of foreign nationals exploited in the UK.
The National Crime Agency has reported a 34% rise in potential trafficking victims in 2014 compared with a year earlier. Adults are predominantly victims of sexual exploitation, while minors are exploited for labour.
The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) says that 51% of all the young people referred to itschild trafficking advice centre from Vietnam have been reported missing at one time.
Anti-Slavery International says that of the potential trafficking victims who were forced to cultivate cannabis, 96% were from Vietnam and 81% of those were children.
Nearly 25% of all trafficking victims are children.
Agencies report that victims are being sold on, along with their debt, for as much as £30,000, to other traffickers for multiple exploitation, including sex trafficking, domestic servitude and cannabis cultivation.
Of the trafficked children who have disappeared, the NSPCC reported in its 2012 all-party parliamentary groupreport that 58% were being exploited for criminal activity and cannabis cultivation.
Read more at The Guardian