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20 kids smuggled into Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 09:18 21 April 2009 | UPDATED: 09:04 06 July 2010

TWENTY children have been smuggled into Suffolk by people traffickers in just eight months, it emerged today.

It is believed some of the youngsters were at the mercy of organised criminal gangs, whilst others were fleeing war-torn countries.

TWENTY children have been smuggled into Suffolk by people traffickers in just eight months, it emerged today.

It is believed some of the youngsters were at the mercy of organised criminal gangs, whilst others were fleeing war-torn countries.

The children, who have all been homed by Suffolk social services, were shipped in from six different countries.

A spokeswoman for the council confirmed they were all under 18 years old.

Ten of the children came from Afghanistan, three from Iraq, two each from Eritrea, Iran and China, while the other one travelled from Sri Lanka.

They were all discovered by the authorities between May and December 2008.

A Suffolk County Council spokeswoman said: “Suffolk County Council has a duty of care to these young people coming into the country, who can be alone and vulnerable.

“The safety and well-being of these young people in Suffolk is a top priority and it is vital that they are responsibly cared for and remain under the watch of the local authority until which time they leave our care.”

One Suffolk resident who has personal experience of what it is like to be smuggled into England as a child is Matt Rahmati.

Fearing he would be killed by the Taliban, Mr Rahmati was 16 when he and his 21-year-old nephew sought asylum after they arrived in Felixstowe from Afghanistan.

Now aged 25, he has carved out a life for himself, living and working in Ipswich.

He said: “For any child it is going to be very difficult to come over. It's quite terrifying. I had left home for about a month. If your life is in danger you will do anything to get away from it. At the time I felt terrible. It's not an easy thing to do.”

Initially Mr Rahmati was cared for by Suffolk County Council, but he was determined to be independent and contribute to his new homeland. However, he is thankful to have been looked after during the first year of his life in Suffolk.

He said: “I was looked after well. I will always be grateful, although I did not want to be supported too much.”

A total of 957 children nationally were picked up by local authorities during the final eight months of last year.

More than 400 of those are said to have come from Afghanistan, while 200 were from Africa, with at least 53 from Iraq.

Youngsters are often concealed in the containers of lorries which travel through major ports such as Felixstowe and Dover.

Attempts are made to smuggle others through airports like Heathrow and Gatwick using false documentation.

A Freedom of Information request has shown Kent cared for the most youngsters from May to December. The county looked after more than 470 children.

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