Women and Children

Children trafficked into Britain for sacrifice rituals

Roxanne Escobales
Thursday June 16, 2005

An unknown number of children are being trafficked from Africa and then used in ritualistic abuse and sacrifice offerings in the UK, according to a leaked report from the Metropolitan police.

The confidential report, leaked to the BBC, means police have discovered what has been known for years, African community activists say.

Many trafficked children suffer abuse at the hands of their relatives and guardians, such as the 10-year-old girl known only as Child B, whose aunt and two other adults were convicted this month for torturing her after the girl was branded a witch by church leaders.

Others, such as Victoria Climbié and the unidentified boy "Adam", whose torso was found floating in the Thames, end up dead.

The BBC reported that the latest investigation by the Met into child trafficking from Africa alleges that these children are being beaten and murdered because they are believed to be possessed by evil spirits. Other alleged uses for the children include domestic slaves and for sexual purposes, including being forced to have sex with men with HIV who believe that sex with a virgin will cure their disease.

The confidential report was launched in response to recommendations made after the Laming inquiry into the death of Victoria Climbié, an eight-year-old girl from the Ivory Coast who died from abuse at the hands of her aunt and her aunt's partner.

To gather information, two community partnership officers conducted a survey over 10 months in the London boroughs of Newham and Hackney in an effort to engage with the African and Asian communities. Workshops were held with the members of the public on topics such as female genital mutilation, physical chastisement, forced marriage and faith-related child abuse.

Sections from the study included: "People who are desperate will seek out witchcraft experts to cast spells for them. Members of the workshop stated that for a spell to be powerful it required a sacrifice involving a male child unblemished by circumcision.

"They allege that boy children are being trafficked into the UK for this purpose. Specific details were not forthcoming as the belief was that they would be 'dead meat' if we tell you any more."

The report uncovers the influence of the church in African communities, which it describes as a "lucrative business". It reveals that church pastors identify children as witches, who then go on to be the targets of ritualistic abuse. It also highlighted concerns about church pastors identifying children as witches, who then suffer violence at the hands of their parents.

It said: "A number of pastors maintain that God speaks to them and lets them know when someone is possessed ... After much debate, they acknowledged that children labelled as possessed are in danger of being beaten by their families. However, they would not accept that they played a major role in inciting such violence."

A Metropolitan police spokeswoman said: "The aim of the project was to open a dialogue within these communities and encourage a debate which would help reduce the risks of harm to children. The recommendations in the report, due to be published later this month, are being carefully considered at the highest levels in the Met in conjunction with partner agencies and community groups."

African community activists, however, have asked why no action has been taken sooner.

Debbie Ariyo, the director of Africans Unite Against Child Abuse, told SocietyGuardian.co.uk: "The way forward is for the government to sit up and realise that something horrible is going on and do something concrete about it. We know definitely there is an increasing number of children being trafficked. Now is the right time for the government to accept there is a problem."

The London Child Protection Committee said it was in the process of setting up a strategic sub-group to address these issues throughout the capital. The group will include representatives from the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Department for Education and Skills as well as police, health services, education, social services and voluntary sector organisations.

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