A successful pilot scheme to help protect vulnerable migrant children in the UK was showcased to a national audience in Watford on Thursday, March 22.
Hertfordshire Constabulary hosted a conference with delegates from forces across the country as well as Immigration Enforcement, National Crime Agency and social services who were gathered together to discuss safeguarding unaccompanied migrant children.
These children may have been unwillingly trafficked into the country by criminal gangs. Once here, they are then at risk of further exploitation and very often go missing even after they come to the attention of authorities.
The focus of the day was safeguarding and treating migrant children as victims, improving partnership work, investigations and protective measures around children and young people who present themselves to the authorities.
Herts Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson, who opened the conference, said: “Unaccompanied migrant children are some of the most vulnerable people encountered by police and other frontline agencies.
“We have made significant steps forward to improve our response to this often hidden problem and move away from treating these young people as simply suspected immigration offenders.
“This conference provided an excellent opportunity to present new ideas and discuss how best to recognise and manage the risks around these children.”
At the conference, Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Missing Persons Unit presented a new project that has been piloted in the county since last August.
The team created a new standardised process for professionals and police officers working with migrant children. The aim is to engage positively with the young person at the earliest opportunity, treating them as victims and securing vital information about them that will help police and social services understand the risks around them.
A new pack was designed for the process for professionals to complete and submit about the child. The pack includes questions to ask the child regarding their welfare, safety and information about who they are, where they came from and how they came to be in the UK.
Detective Chief Inspector Dee Perkins, head of protecting children at Hertfordshire Constabulary, said: “Our Missing Persons Unit has worked hard to get this scheme off the ground and we were delighted to showcase the positive results it has achieved at the conference.”