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Ban child trafficking - U.N.

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The U.N. wants any form of child trafficking outlawed.

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LONDON, England -- The U.N. children's charity is calling on the UK government to tighten its laws against the rising number of children trafficked for the slave trade and the sex industry.

UNICEF says hundreds, if not thousands, of youngsters are brought into the country against their will each year from West Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia -- often legally -- only to be forced into slave labor.

A law, the Sexual Offences Bill, is currently going through the British parliament which would make it illegal to traffic people into the UK for sexual exploitation but it does not cover those trafficked for other forms of work.

UNICEF launched its report "Stop the Traffic!" as part of its End Child Exploitation campaign. It is calling for the government to pass a law which would prohibit any form of child trafficking.

It comes a day after British detectives arrested 21 people in connection with the discovery in 2001 of the torso of a young Nigerian in the river Thames. (Full Story)

Police believe the suspects, who are all Nigerian nationals, are involved in bringing children and adults from West Africa to the UK via Europe.

David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK, said: "Trafficking is a serious abuse of child rights and is seen as less risky than trafficking drugs."

Police arrested 21 people Tuesday after raiding property in East London.
Police arrested 21 people Tuesday after raiding property in East London.

He urged the Government to approach the problem as a child protection -- and not an immigration -- issue.

The UNICEF director called for a central funding scheme also to provide specialist care and protection for victims.

Bull told Channel 4 television that "certainly hundreds" of children were being trafficked through Britain each year.

But a failure in spotting and identifying those children means the number could be thousands, he added.

Home Office minister Caroline Flint was quoted by the UK's Press Association as saying many children were brought into Britain legally and then exploited, making it difficult to ascertain the numbers being trafficked each year.

Child trafficking is a "global crisis" and one of the fastest growing criminal activities, with about 1.2 million being trafficked worldwide each year, Bull said.


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