Globalization and Child Trafficking


The continued integration of world economies has had profound effects in enhancing economic developments, eliminating trade barriers, the spreading of technology and improving living standards. On the other hand, globalization has resulted to the dissemination of global crimes such as modern slavery in the form of human trafficking (Ebbe & Das, 2008). According to Brewer (2009), human trafficking should not be identified as a repeal effect of globalization but rather as an integral part of the globalization process. Characterized by increased integration of global economies in the form of free trade and the free flow of capital, globalization has r facilitated coerced transfer of people across the world either directly or indirectly. Vis-a-vis, it is due to heightened elements of globalization that human trafficking has become increasingly prevalent. The present report aims to provide a critical evaluation of UK’s policy framework on human trafficking with regards to the eminent concepts of globalization. The study will concentrate on trafficking of children and the impact of the National Referral Mechanism policy framework on modern slavery. According to International Labour Organisation (2007), child trafficking refers “to the movement of a child within a country or across border whether by force or not, with the purpose of exploiting the child.”


While victims of human trafficking include men, women, and children, the targeted social group of the study will be children. It is estimated that one out of five victims of trafficking is a child (National Crime Agency, 2015). The report further indicated that children were most likely to be trafficked from UK, Vietnam, Slovakia, Romania and Nigeria (National Crime Agency, 2015). On the other hand, as a social group, children were majorly trafficked for the purposes of sexual and criminal exploitation (National Crime Agency, 2015). With the prevalence of child trafficking in the UK, numerous policies have been formulated and implemented in an effort to eliminate human trafficking in the country. Although to a larger extent majority of state-centered approaches aimed at eliminating human trafficking have proven ineffective, the report will critically evaluate and appraise the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) in regards to curbing human trafficking in the country. NRM was formulated in 2009 with the primary objective of meeting the obligations set by the Council of European Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. NRM provides the requisite framework for identifying the victims of human trafficking and further providing primary support (Home Office, 2014).

Theoretical Perspective: Globalization and Human Trafficking

The advent of economic globalization has not only resulted to the unprecedented liberalization of trade, finance, and communication but also facilitated growth and transfer of crime. While the definition of globalization is multi-varied, Giddens (1990) defined globalization as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa." Globalization has been characterized with the emerges of integrated global economies defined by free trade, transcending state boundaries and the continued flow of capital. In addition to the dissemination of trade and commerce, globalization has also been responsible for the transfer of cultural practices, values and vices (Brewer, 2009). Consequently, economic globalization has been identified as a key facilitator of human trafficking (Brewer, 2009). According to Ukpere (2011), globalization underpins commercial interdependence between states and further promotes the transfer of goods and services subject to the forces of demand and supply. Ukpere (2011) lamented that economic assumptions of globalization wrongly assert that global interdependence would lead to improved health, eradication of poverty and improved gender equality. However, the reality is highly contrasting, as it emerges that positive effects of globalization are distributed disproportionately among states and members of the community. Consequently, the resulting deprivation of resources and deterioration of living standards has become a primary driver of crime. Human trafficking has been compounded by the rise of transnational organized crime. Through globalization of trade networks and markets, transnational organized crime is founded on the mechanism that effectively facilitates the transfer of illegal goods and services from a supplying social system to another society for consumption. According to Ukpere (2011), developing countries have emerged as the origin or workshops of illegal goods and services while developed countries haves been transformed into markets.

The unprecedented economic globalizations has further gravitated the effect of push and pull factors that underline emigration. It is the balance between pull and push factors that determine the presence of constraints or motivating factors for migration that in turn facilitate children exploitation and trafficking (Engstrom, Hilliard, and Diaz, 2007). In most cases, individuals are likely to be pushed out of their home countries where economic opportunities are meager and pulled into the developed countries that have the prospects of improved living standards (Shifman, 2003). Vis a vis, migrants are lured by the prospects of economic opportunities that are otherwise lacking in their native countries. Consequently, traffickers have perfected the art of falsifying the dynamics of push and pull forces to recruit children with the promise of improved lifestyle. With regards to transnational sex trafficking of women and children, three types of countries participate: countries of origin, transit and destination countries (Brewer, 2009).Country of origin are those from which the victims are trafficked from, transit countries represent where the victims pass or intermediaries and destination states represent final destination or exploitation market for the victims (Brewer, 2009). Country of origin is characterized by heightened push factors such as poor living standards, lack of education, lack of social services, political corruption, gender inequality, and discrimination. Similarly, destination countries are largely those having the pull factors such as educational opportunities, improved job opportunities, high demand for cheap labour, political stability, high demand for commercial sex and prospects of higher wages (Rahman, 2011). Consequently, social injustices play a critical role in fostering human trafficking as the majority of the victims are mostly from poor backgrounds and further lacking basic education (Kendall & Funk, 2012). Hardly surprising, human trafficking, therefore, embodies nexus of vulnerability and exploitation. The rapid diffusion of technology as consequence of globalization can also be identified as a factor facilitating human trafficking in addition to the economic push and pull factors.

Unprecedented technological advances in information technology have improved communication and transportation among traffickers. Cell phone and internet technology have transformed the world into a global village with real-time communication. These advancements successfully enabled traffickers to coordinate their crime networks on a global scale and further gain access to a larger demand and supply pool. Advent technologies such as the internet have created new market platforms for commercial sex workers through pornographic sites. All these factors compounded, it is self-evident that globalization has transformed human trafficking into a highly sophisticated and well-organized crime (Pearce & Melrose, 2013).

Critical evaluation of the National Referral Mechanism

According to Home Office, (2014) NRM represents policy framework for the UK’s state actors to exercise their obligations to protect and promote the rights of the victims of human trafficking and further coordinating the efforts through a strategic partnership with civil societies. NRM aims to protect the rights of individuals who been victims of human trafficking and consequently avail requisite services to enhance their recovery. Concerning children trafficking, NRM incorporates the following elements: strategic guidance on how to identify victims of child trafficking, referral system for child victims of trafficking designed to offer protection from physical and emotional harm. As well as an elaborate system that investigates and prosecutes perpetrators of child trafficking and a multidisciplinary institutional framework that evaluates and monitors child trafficking activities in the country (Home Office, 2014). The key element of the NRM constitutes the identification and location of the potential victims of child trafficking commonly referred to as “presumed trafficked persons.” The process of identification is further underlined with the cooperation of the primary stakeholders who will subsequently provide specialized assistance to the rescued victims. The identification and location of child trafficking victims present an overriding concern to the NRM. Victims of child trafficking are more likely to avoid state authorities due to psychological trauma or their involvement with crime (Rafferty, 2008). According to a report by Rafferty (2008), victims of child trafficking mostly lack faith in the governing systems and government agencies due to their experience of neglect from their countries of origin. Vis a vis, the identification of child trafficking victims characterizes a complex and time-consuming activity that necessitates elaborate support structures and professional guidance. Consequently, the NRM provides protection and support program that outlines the recommended identification process. In addition to the identification program outline, the NRM also provides cooperation structures that guide the participation of the government agencies and civil society groups in attaining the objectives of the policy.

Review of the NRM in the UK indicated that over 6800 individuals were referred to the NRM between the year 2009 and 2014 (Home Office, 2014). The majority of the identification process was undertaken by home offices that recorded 42 % while the police, NGOs, local authority and national crime agency reported 25%, 21%, 9% and 3 % of the cases respectively (Home Office, 2014). Consequently, the policy framework seems to gain traction with time as the identification of human trafficking victims steadily increased yearly from 2009. The continued awareness campaign of the modern slavery and popularity of the NRM positively facilitate referral of victims. Figures indicate that the number of referrals from the first quarter of 2014 was 39% higher compared to the same period in 2013 (Home Office, 2014). Regarding child trafficking, NRM provides an elaborate identification process that upholds the rights and privileges of children. NRM provides that an adult or child advocate should accompany responses associated with children. When the age of the victims is in question, the framework provides for an age assessment process that incorporates the services of a social worker or a nurse (Home Office, 2014). Consequently, carrying out of a referral for child victims involves sending of NRM child form to the UK human trafficking centre. Unlike adults who must give consent for their referral to the NRM, children are not expected to consent although consultation and education of the process are recommended. In the case of child referral, a copy of the NRM form is sent to the local authority children's services. The national referral process of children involves two stages: reasonable grounds decision stage and the conclusive ground decision stage (National Crime Agency, 2017). The reasonable ground decision is undertaken by the case manager to ascertain the child is a victim of modern slavery based on the information available but without proof. It is during the conclusive grounds decision that the case manager based on probability asserts that the child is more likely than not to be a victim of child trafficking (National Crime Agency, 2017).

Although there have been calls for the revision of UK’s NRM with regards to its effectiveness in protecting the rights of human trafficking, no changes have been implemented. The majority of the recommendations were aimed at incorporating best practices model for identification of child victims. These recommendations include the development of child-centered approach, implementation of a nondiscriminatory model regardless of the nationality of the child, incorporation of professional services, and incorporation of child protection structures (Home Office, 2014). The calls for the revision of the NRM further advocates for the implementation of a multi-agency response team that is embedded with UK's child protection system as opposed to using of NGOs that may lack child protection professionals (Children's Commissioner, 2015). Critical evaluation of UK's NRM indicates a mixed reaction with regards to its success in mitigating the effects of human trafficking in the country. It is imperative that a comprehensive review of the policy framework evaluate the effectiveness of the policy’s identification approach, ease of access to support and the governance. In terms of identification, evidence indicates under representation of child victims of trafficking. The majority of the referrals have declined because of errors such as unsigned forms. Similarly, professionalism of the first responders has raised concerns over their management of referral cases. Since the majority of the responders are drawn from voluntary set ups such as NGOs, social workers, and churches, therefore, lacking adequate training and awareness.

Consequently, the identification of child trafficking victims does not always guarantee access to the requisite support as mandated by NRM. According to Home Office (2014), over 25 % of the victims cleared for reasonable ground decisions fails to receive positive conclusive ground decisions. Furthermore, studies by Children's Commissioner, (2015) highlighted that the governance of NRM was highly fragmented. The management of the NRM has been characterized by lack of accountability and poor decision-making structures. The absence of a comprehensive management system has resulted to delayed referral of victims and neglect of the needs of human trafficking victims (Children's Commissioner, 2015).

Globalization and Children

The effect of globalization on children can be term as highly varied. However, the intersection of globalization forces and childhood experiences can be evidenced by the participation of children in migration, trafficking, and inter-state adoption. To a larger extent, public discourse on children and globalization has been focused on the key spheres of childhood developments that include economic and sexual exploitation, education, citizenship and exposure to technology and media (Fass, 2003). On a positive note, the majority of children have had the opportunity to access education through global networks and international donors. Globalization has directly created an unprecedented enabling environment that promotes the sharing of knowledge, social values, and technologies (Welander, Lyttkens, & Nilsson, 2015). Consequently, children from underdeveloped countries have had the opportunities to build on their talents and skills by migrating to developed countries or accessing resources through the internet. Similarly, through advent technologies such as social media and online platforms, the society have become more aware of the crimes being perpetrated against children in form of forced labour, child trafficking, and child pornography

On the other hand, the prevailing global dynamics have increasingly exposed children to both economic and social injustices that were traditionally nonexistent. While globalization has drastically improved international trade, opened markets and liberalized economies, it has also promoted global inequality. It has been noted that global dynamics have concentrated resources on some nations while at the same time depleting resources and opportunity on others. Consequently, the resulting economic and social inequality trickles down to effects the living standards of children. Vis a vis, globalization seems to have worsened the living conditions of children from poor states majorly from Africa and Asia (Pearce & Melrose, 2013). Consequently, women and children have been identified as the most vulnerable groups for human trafficking as result of globalization. Studies have indicated that child trafficking has far-reaching developmental impacts on the lives of children. Child victims of human trafficking have been subject to both physical and psychological abuse as they are exposed to sexual exploitation and drug abuse (Miko, 2006). Children consequently risked being exposed to educational deprivation, emotional stress, and physical harm when targeted by human traffickers.

Trafficking of children robs them off educational opportunities and therefore worsening their future economic prospects. Additional effects of educational deprivation on children have been studied to include delayed development, low verbal and memory skills, poor academic performance and language difficulties (Howard, 2016). Similarly, victims of child trafficking are further more prone to health related complications. Children are therefore at the risks of being denied their human rights to medical care, unhygienic environment, unwanted pregnancies, and unsafe abortions (Fass, 2003). The girl is further at a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases. Modern slavery could further have long lasting psychological challenges on the victims. Seclusion of children from their family members and subsequent exposure to physical abuse leads to severe trauma. The resulting psychological impact on children includes shame, guilt, depression, low self-esteem, and hopelessness (Rafferty, 2008).

Implementation of NRM and Practitioners

UK adopted the NRM in 2009 in compliance with the Council of European Convention on action against trafficking in Human beings (National Crime Agency, 2017). While at its core, it embodies the framework for identifying victims of human trafficking, it also constitutes the policy upon which Modern slavery human trafficking Unit (MSHTU) gather date about victims. NRM constitutes a multidisciplinary team that incorporates governmental agencies, nongovernmental agencies, civil society and the community at large. At the center of the identification process are two competent authorities that include UK human trafficking centre (UKHTC) and the Home office immigration Visas (UKVI) (National Crime Agency, 2017). On the other hand, first responders include a wide range of agencies that include national crime agency, police, home office, and local authority. First responders constitute a critical integral of NRM process as embodying an avenue into the system. Based on a review report of the NRM, the number of referrals has steadily increased over the years from 2009 (Home Office, 2014). Consequently, governmental agencies have collaborated with NGOs in an effort to spread awareness and enhance identification of victims. Consequently, first responders have developed effective identification tools that include possible indicators child trafficking victims. Similarly, the home office has been in the frontline in creating awareness through public campaigns. With support being a key pillar of the NRM policy, both competent authorities have established and subsequently implemented excellent support services for the referred victims. Children who have received positive reasonable grounds decision are provided with accommodation in safe houses and in support workers, the additional support includes specialist counseling, medical treatment, and sexual health support (Home Office, 2014).However, an overriding concern over the structure of NRM has been identified as the data collection and intelligence gathering mechanism. NRM lacks a single data collection system that could harmonize the national findings. It emerged that data is collected from a range of sources that are further held in unconsolidated spreadsheet files by the UKHTC and UKVI. Vis a vis, the data collected highly limits the effectiveness of the identification process and is further too rudimental for intelligence gathering.

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Personal Findings

It is quite alarming how the negative effects of globalization equally match up to the gains. While globalization has increasing been associated with the opening of national borders, ease of access to global market and enhancement of communication, however, the majority of lives have been deteriorated as consequences of global influences. Children being the most vulnerable social groups in the society have increasing been exposed to the hazardous environment, both socially and economic. Through global influences, children have been increasingly been exposed to human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and forced labour. It is surprising that the same policies aimed at improving access to information, education and economic prosperity have been exploited to established global criminal networks that cannot be institutionalized by a single state. Vis a vis, from the discussion, it is imperative that the global community undertakes a multidisciplinary approach that is founded on a collaborative framework to combat child trafficking and related crimes.

Reflective Statement

Based on the feedback from assignment 1, I have positively improved on my in text citation by referencing only the documents that I have used and further met the minimum reference sources required.

References List

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Children's Commissioner, (2015). National Referral Mechanism. London: Children's Commissioner.

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Giddens A. (1990). The Consequences of Modernity. Stanford University Press: Stanford, CT.

Home Office, (2014). Review of the National Referral Mechanism for victims of human traffiking. [online] London: Home Office, pp.7-14. Available at:

Howard, N (2016). Child Trafficking, Youth Labour Mobility And The Politics Of Protection. Palgrave Macmillan, Discovery eBooks, EBSCO host, [Accessed: 17 February 2017].

International Labour Organisation, (2007). Note on the definition of 'child trafficking. Towards the Elimination of the worst forms of Child Labour (TECL). Pretoria: ILO, pp.1-2.

Kendall, V, & Funk, T.( 2012) Child Exploitation And Trafficking : Examining The Global Challenges And U.S. Responses, Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Discovery eBooks, EBSCO host, [ Accessed: 17 February 2017]

Kendall, V.M., & Funk, T., M. (2016). Child Exploitation and Trafficking : Examining Global Enforcement and Supply Chain Challenges and U.S. Responses, Second edition, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham.

Miko, FT. (2006) 'Trafficking in persons: the U.S. and international response', Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports And Issue Briefs, Academic One File, EBSCO host, [ Accessed: 17 February 2017].

National Crime Agency (2017). National Referral Mechanism. National crime Available [Accessed 17 Feb. 2017].

National Crime Agency, (2015). The Nature and Scale of Human Trafficking in 2014. NCA Strategic Assessment. UKHTC: London, pp.4-7.

Pearce, J, & Melrose, M. (2013) Critical Perspectives On Child Sexual Exploitation And Related Trafficking, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, Discovery eBooks, EBSCOhost, [Accessed: 17 February 2017] Potrafke, N. (2016). ‘Policies against human trafficking: the role of religion and political institutions’, Economics of Governance, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 353-386.

Rafferty, Y. (2008). ‘The Impact of Trafficking on Children: Psychological and Social Policy Perspectives.’ Society for Research in Child Development, 2(1), pp.13-18.

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