'Child trafficking': Experiences of separated children on the move

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


‘Child trafficking’ as a phenomenon requiring a policy and practice response has, in recent years gathered considerable pace. ‘Child trafficking’ is a crosscutting social issue, relevant to policy areas of child protection, child migration, criminal justice, immigration, social policy and human rights. This thesis explores children’s own accounts and lived experiences of ‘child trafficking’, addressing a notable gap in hearing from children directly. The thesis critically engages with the social construction of the ‘trafficked child’ examining how contemporary concepts of childhood shape and inform ‘child trafficking’ policy and practice. How ‘child trafficking’ policy has been constructed politically is examined, in shaping how ‘child trafficking’ is defined in practice. The implications for children experiencing trafficking of a system built on current assumptions about childhood and ‘child trafficking’ are considered. The study explores how children’s experiences of their childhood and ‘child trafficking’ challenge many assumptions underpinning policy and practice. The findings reveal a disjuncture between immigration-driven and prosecution focused ‘child trafficking’ practice and children requiring a welfare and individualised response to their needs. Children needed practitioners to listen to them, believe them and take action upon child protection concerns. A conclusion is drawn that the way in which ‘child trafficking’ policy and practice in England is presently constructed, and experienced, appears not to reflect the lived ‘realties’ of young people in this study. A new approach to ‘child trafficking’ policy and practice is recommended underpinned by a conceptual shift in how we perceive childhood and adolescence. Intended audiences of this study include policy-makers and front-line practitioners including social workers, the police, immigration officers and other services. This qualitative study contributes in developing methods with a hard to access population addressing a difficult subject area, promoting children and young people’s participation in research.
Date of Award19 Jun 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SponsorsEconomic and Social Research Council
SupervisorLouise Brown (Supervisor) & Ian Butler (Supervisor)


  • Child trafficking
  • Childhood and youth
  • Child protection
  • Exploitation
  • Child abuse
  • Migration
  • Separation
  • experience
  • children's perspectives
  • Social policy

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