Police are today hunting for 13 missing Vietnamese teenagers amid fears they could have fallen into the hands of slave gangs.
The girls and boys, all aged between 14 and 18, came into the country illegally in June and September and were housed within Northamptonshire.
They left their accommodation separately shortly after entering the care system and a police operation code named Fresco has been launched to find them.
Police are today hunting for these 13 missing Vietnamese teenagers amid fears they could have fallen into the hands of slave gangs
Northamptonshire Police say a decision has now been made to publicise the descriptions and pictures of the teenagers and ask the public’s help in finding them.
Detectives have been working alongside social services, accommodation providers and other forces in a co-ordinated and covert approach, targeting specific communities.
Last month it emerged scores of Vietnamese children rescued from traffickers and put into council care have vanished and are feared to have fallen back into the hands of slave gangs.
More than 150 Vietnamese youngsters have gone missing from their care and foster homes since 2015, and 88 have disappeared temporarily. This summer alone, 12 vanished from Rochdale.
Experts have said some of the youngsters ‘freak out’ after being taken in by British authorities and run back to the arms of traffickers in panic.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, chairwoman of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking and modern slavery, described the figures as ‘very disturbing’.
She said the Home Office should make ‘some special arrangement’ for the children that present a particular risk.
The figures, obtained by The Times through freedom of information requests to 430 local authorities. A total of 79 authorities did not respond to the request.
James Simmonds-Read, of the Children’s Society, told the newspaper the children did not feel safe after being rescued.
He said: ‘We are not creating a culture where they feel safe, so children freak out and go missing and back to the people that trafficked and abused them.’
Footage published earlier this month shows a group of Vietnamese migrants, including children, jumping from a lorry near Northampton
Many Vietnamese children taken into care disappear and may have returned to traffickers
Rochdale council was in charge of 12 youngsters who went missing. The local authority said they had only been in its care for two days and their ages had not been verified
Helen Johnson, head of children’s services at the Refugee Council, added: ‘If children are treated with hostility, they’ll believe what traffickers tell them: that they won’t be helped or believed and that they are in debt.’
The Home Office said it was developing an independent advocate system to help councils support young trafficking victims, and added that it had placed a duty on councils to flag up cases of children disappearing from care.
Rochdale council said there was ‘no similarity’ between the street grooming scandal and the issues surrounding missing Vietnamese children.