Shock as Charity Reports 20 Children 'Lost' to Sex Trade in West Midlands

A charity has left the UK shocked with reports that approximately 20 children, who were supposed to have been in the care of social services in the West Midlands, have disappeared.

Save the Children said it was most likely that the missing children have been lost to the sex trafficking industry.

The children, who were based in Birmingham and Coventry among other areas, were among 32 young people identified as being potential sex or labour slaves, the charity has said.

Hosting a conference in Birmingham, the charity said the children originated from China, Somalia, Vietnam and Bangladesh, through the people-trafficking route.

Shruti Tanna, regional manager for Save the Children, has said that it is increasingly common for children to be processed under immigration and asylum regulations, only to later vanish - probably back into the sex trade.

Tanna said: "These figures are just the tip of the iceberg. A wide variety of agencies are attending the conference and we must come up with a concerted approach to help these young people. The social services are being very positive and we need good practice - led by Government - on how to deal with this and how to see these vulnerable young people are protected and cared for in the right way."

These latest reports come as churches across Britain celebrated the 200th anniversary since the abolition of the slave trade at the weekend, with calls for the modern day slavery of sex trafficking to be tackled with greater urgency.

Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd was one such voice calling for an end to modern-day slavery, saying the world today is "more slave-ridden than it was hundreds of years ago".

The star, who plays English slave abolitionist William Wilberforce in new film Amazing Grace, says the role opened his eyes to the plight of those in captivity.

He says, "I was really rather ignorant of Wilberforce and the slave trade. But I fell in love with all of it and strongly believe that slavery is still a very relevant topic today.

"We are more slave-ridden now than back then, and I think child slavery and sex slavery are the next two issues which need to be tackled."

In addition, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu have published an innovative online reflection on the nature of the slave trade.

The joint reflection has been posted on 'youtube', and was filmed at the site of the slave market in Zanzibar, now the island's Anglican Cathedral, during the recent Anglican Primates Meeting.

It is estimated 27 million slaves still exist in the world today. An estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, with approximately 50 per cent of all victims being children.