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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

A private member's Bill to introduce a tracking system designed to safeguard the welfare of children travelling to the United Kingdom without their parents was introduced by Margaret Moran, Labour MP for Luton South.

It was given an unopposed first reading, but is unlikely to make progress. However, MPs will hope it could influence government thinking on measures to be introduced in the next parliamentary session.

The Children (Safeguards for Unaccompanied Travel) Bill would enable parents to register their arrangements with immigration authorities at the entry application stage and to serve as a referral to agencies such as social services, health and education authorities to ensure that children received the services and support to which they were entitled. The recent Victoria Climbie case demonstrated how children who entered the UK without their parents could fall through the net provided by the authorities - sometimes with tragic consequences.

Children's charities were aware that children were trafficked into the UK and other European countries to be used in prostitution, pornography, organised begging and benefit fraud, added Ms Moran.

She said Luton BC admitted that many children might enter the country in that way and arrive in the town. West Sussex social services department reported that between 1995 and 2000, 59 unaccompanied asylum seekers disappeared from children's homes.

Tracking all newly-arrived children in the UK would be an enormous task and was not a realistic option. Ms Moran said she proposed a simple tracking system for children entering the UK who were not normally resident here and did not travel with their parents. It could be built on existing immigration processes.

A simple flag system could indicate on travel documents that a child was not travelling with its parents. In addition, there should be a UK requirement for all children entering the country to hold their own passports. Visa or entry certificates should incoprporate photographs and demonstrate a link between adult and child - for example, by adding the child's passport number and fingerprints to the adults visa.

Such a system might not deter the most dedicated traffickers, conceded Ms Moran, but it could safeguard the majority of children who travelled without their parents, She said an awareness campaign was needed in west Africa and in other countries to alert parents to the risks of trafficking and to inform them of the tracking system and of EU immigration procedures.

Hansard 10 Apr 2002: Column 40-42

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