A peer support project for boys and young men who have been victims of human trafficking has been set up by Ecpat UK and the Children’s Society.
More than a third of children trafficked to the UK in 2012 were boys.
The new project will support boys and young men who have been trafficked to the UK and who are then victims of sexual exploitation, forced labour or press-ganged into criminal activities.
The group will focus on building life skills, empower victims to have a voice and develop peer support through sharing experiences. The project will also help improve the understanding of male trafficking and the impact on victims.
Boys and young men will be referred to the service from social workers, police and legal professionals.
Trafficking is often thought to be a problem affecting girls and young women, but to mark European Anti-trafficking Day on 18 October the charities want to raise awareness of the fact that males are increasing vulnerable to it.
More than a third (38 per cent) of the 549 children identified as being potential victims of human trafficking last year were boys, but experts believe the real number could be far higher due to many victims going unidentified.
Bharti Patel, chief executive of Ecpat UK, said: “Boys and young men are increasingly being identified as vulnerable and at high risk of being trafficked to the UK for sexual exploitation, forced criminality, domestic servitude and forced labour.
“Support to all victims of trafficking is vital for their recovery from the traumatic experiences resulting from gross abuse and multiple violations of their rights as children.
“This new partnership will help us understand the needs of boys and be in a better position to protect more boys in the future.”
Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society, said: “These children and young men have been controlled through violence, fear, imprisonment or debts. Many will have been through horrific ordeals, and it is incredibly important that they have someone who they can trust to support them to recover from the abuse.”
The new project builds on the model of peer support developed by Ecpat UK's girls youth group, which provides a safe environment for girls and young women who have been trafficked to meet and build their confidence and skills.
Figures from the Human Trafficking Centre show the number of children and young people trafficked in 2012 rose by 12 per cent compared to a year earlier.