01 July, 2008


But they're only kids, guvnor, and there's only two of 'em

Yesterday the Today programme carried a piece about child trafficking. Two cases were featured, one of a young Nigerian girl and one of a Ugandan girl, both of whom were brought under false pretences to live with African families in the UK where they were exploited and used as mistreated unpaid servants, and there was some suggestion of sexual menace or abuse. In each case the girl escaped and eventually came to the attention of the authorities. Having reached their majority, both are now under threat of repatriation.

After the package, a child-protection busybody was wheeled on to say how nasty and unfair this was and how the young women should be allowed to remain in the UK. Neither girl, it was pointed out, had anyone to go back to; indeed the Ugandan girl's near family had perished in political violence.

Clearly a community, or nation, has a duty of kindness and care towards vulnerable people who find themselves in its territory, but something seems wrong with this argument.

So I tried turning the circumstances round the other way. Consider an English girl in her early teens, and yes by "English" I do mean a girl of the indigenous North European ethnicity which still forms the majority of the population of the UK. Under false pretences, she is sent to live with a family of English "ex-pats" in Kampala, where she is effectively imprisoned in the family compound, treated as a skivvy, abused and receives sexual advances from the man of the house. In due course she escapes and eventually comes to the notice of the Ugandan authorities. What happens next?

Well, I rather suspect that what happens next is that the Ugandan authorities contact the British authorities, who arrange to repatriate the young woman. If she no longer has family in the UK able and suitable to receive and care for her, she will be taken into the care of the authorities. If the Ugandan authorities prove uninterested or incapable, then if she makes her way to the British High Commission, I am sure they will help her get home.

And that is what should happen to the two African girls quoted. The Nigerian and Ugandan authorities are not competent or trustworthy, you say? Shame on you for that racist insinuation. In any case, that is not our problem. The care of the young women is the responsibility of their own Governments.

This might seem harsh, but It is not for us to offer sanctuary and social support to the entire world, nor can we achieve or afford it.

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