Revealed: The Staggering Number of Children Sent to Britain All Alone; FEARS OF PROSTITUTION AND SLAVERY AS 190 YOUNGSTERS COME IN EVERY WEEK
Byline: GRAHAM KEELEY
AT least 190 unaccompanied children arrive at Heathrow airport every week, police have revealed.
Many are sent by their families to study or join relatives. But others are brought in by trafficking gangs who force them into prostitution or illegal labour. The disturbing news has emerged half way through a six-month operation to discover the extent of child trafficking through one of Europe's busiest airports. Investigators have found that many of the children who arrive here on their own come from West Africa, the Caribbean, Eastern Europe and Russia.
Some claim asylum but many disappear after a short time with social services. Police believe they use phone numbers they were given before leaving home to contact traffickers. Most are threatened that their families will suffer if they do not do so.
Investigators would not say how many of the children who arrived at Heathrow were groomed for prostitution or illegal labour.
But they said that some children would suffer the same fate as eight- year- old Victoria Climbie, who was sent from the Ivory Coast to Britain in 1999 by her parents.
They hoped she would have a better future in this country but, a year after arriving, she was murdered.
Richard Sumray, a member of the Metropolitan Police Authority responsible for child protection, said: "What is disturbing about this is the numbers of children who are arriving here unaccompanied.
"If this is the scale of things at Heathrow, how many children are coming in through Gatwick or Dover?
"Many are here for legitimate reasons. But, in the worst cases, children may be groomed for prostitution or slavery."
A report by the National Criminal Intelligence Service found thousands of unaccompanied children were arriving at Britain's airports each year. …