The UK Column has been reporting on the national scandal that is child protection in the UK for many years. We have broad experience of abuse survivors, parents who have had children removed unlawfully, some to be sold on the adoption markets, and we have tried to get some understanding of the scale child trafficking and child sexual exploitation.
I say “tried” because it is still impossible to access any kind of accurate figures for the number of children who go missing in the UK each year. The UK government, the police and the child protection agencies simply do not collect the data. Why, we wonder, in an age of “big data”?
It was this fact which gave us most concern when Tim Farron began his campaign to bring “unaccompanied” Syrian refugee children into this country’s care system. We understood that, while such children are in desperate need of help, Britain has a long history of condemning children in “care” to a life of sexual slavery.
So in January 2016, I wrote to Mr Farron. I asked if he appreciated the position he would be bringing these children into? I asked him a very simple question: what would he personally be doing to make sure these children would be safe once they arrived here? I asked if he would personally guarantee that the whereabouts of these children would be known until they reached the age of 18?
Mr Farron’s response was … silence.
The same day that I wrote to Mr Farron, we covered the issue on the UK Column News and I followed that up with a blog post on my Facebook page. In all cases we made clear the reason for the UK Column’s concern:
And Tim Farron has done nothing for Britain’s missing children.
You may wonder which missing children I’m referring to, since we hear nothing of this in the news. Yet in 2010, the Home Office estimated that around 140,000 children go missing in the UK each year.
Again: 140,000 children go missing in the UK each year!
Most of these missing children return home or are found, but not all. In fact, no-one actually knows how many just “disappear”.
In 2012, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults and the APPG for Looked after Children and Care Leavers issued a report (pdf) following an inquiry into missing children. The inquiry was co-chaired by Ann Coffey MP, chair of the APPG for Runaway and Missing Children and Adults, and Earl of Listowel, vice-chair of the APPG for Looked after Children and Care Leavers. The first paragraph of the foreword says it all:
“There is a scandal going on in England involving children missing from care and until recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Rochdale and other places put the spotlight on this issue it was going on pretty much unnoticed.”
According to the APPG report, there are 68,000 children in care in the UK. The report says that “the local authority with responsibility for a child is required to report on whether they have run away for more than 24 hours to the Department of Education once a year. Data for 2011 shows that 930 individual children went missing. Using this measure of going missing for over 24 hours, police figures suggest 17,000 incidents and 5,000 individual children going missing from care every year.” [my emphasis]
How many of these children return? How many end up being trafficked? The APPG report says, “there are also major problems with quality of data collected on trafficked children. The numbers recorded by CEOP approximately 300 between 2007 and 2010 is widely thought to be the very tip of the iceberg and the lack of robust and comprehensive data was also identified by the Inquiry as a key obstacle to keeping these children safe.”
As we have looked into this issue over the years, it is the fact that no-one seems to know which has really made us pause. 140,000 children go missing every single year, many of them from the care system, and there is no proper mechanism for recording whether any of them return safely.
So this is the Britain that Tim Farron wants to bring thousands of “unaccompanied” children to.
With this in mind, we felt it important for some pressure to be applied to Mr Farron. We asked UK Column News viewers to write to Mr Farron to ask follow up questions to mine.
In all cases cases, he did not respond.
One person, Linda, kept writing. Between January 2016 and September 2016, she received no response of any kind from Mr Farron, yet he continued to campaign to have these children brought to the UK.
And then, at the beginning of September, the news we had been expecting broke: “Hundreds of child refugees have vanished since arriving in the UK, prompting trafficking and abuse fears”.
Linda wrote to Mr Farron again:
are you hiding?
Will you please answer my emails.
This, then, finally, after nine months of patiently and politely asking Mr Farron some simple questions, caused him to respond.
Having expressed his “shock”, he said “the government must urgently review its processes to ensure that children can’t simply vanish from care. Once Parliament returns from its recess period on Monday I will formally ask the new Home Secretary to provide details about what concrete measures her Department is taking to a) ensure that unaccompanied refugee children who arrive in the UK are monitored and kept safe by the relevant authorities and (b) locate the hundreds of refugee children who have gone missing in the UK in the last 5 years.”
According to Mr Farron, “the government must urgently review its processes to ensure that children can’t simply vanish from care,” despite his knowing very well that “the government” was made fully aware of the situation in 2012, and like him has done nothing about it. If “the government” did not review its processes at the time of the 2012 report, why would it do so now? This is a fairly obvious case of “it’s not my problem, guv”.
“Rest assured," he continued, "that this is still an incredibly important issue for my party, and myself and my colleagues in both Houses of Parliament will continue to work to pressure the government to both take in more refugees from Europe, and ensure that they are kept safe once they are here.”
So despite knowing that children in this country’s care system are not safe, despite knowing that children in this country’s care system are routinely stolen to be taken into a life of drugs and rape, Mr Farron wants to bring more unaccompanied children here from Syria. His claims that he will ensure their safety are clearly untruse based on his actions since the beginning of the year.
This response, in our opinion, demonstrates that Tim Farron is not only unsuitable to be the leader of a political party, but is unsuitable to hold any kind of public office. In fact, in our opinion it is not too strong to say that Tim Farron is criminally complicit in the trafficking of children.
When anyone holding public office and in a position to do something about it is informed that children brought to this country would end up in a life of sexual slavery, they must be held personally responsible for every drugs overdose and every rape if they not only take no action to stop it, but continue to actively demand more of the same.
“Unaccompanied” children have no-one to look out for them. They are easy prey. Mr Farron knows this.
It is very hard to view Mr Fallon’s actions as anything other than facilitating child trafficking and child sexual exploitation.