When he was discovered wandering the streets in South London, he said his name was Huang Ngoc Vo, that he was 14 years old, and from Vietnam. And there the matter might have rested, with the migrant child receiving the best help Britain could offer.But in October, telling his foster family he was visiting the local library in Bexley, the boy vanished into thin air. Sadly, Huang’s story is becoming disturbingly familiar — and offers a glimpse into a growing child slave trade in Britain.A few days ago, a haunting photograph of a missing child was put up on Scotland Yard’s website.It showed a short-haired boy with hazel eyes who had arrived alone in Britain last July without any proof of who he is or how he got here.For that reason, many rescued and taken into care escape and run back to the gangs — who brought them here with the sole intention of transforming them into child slaves to repay the money.All this may seem unbelievable in modern, civilised Britain, but it is a scandal driven by the booming cannabis trade.That’s why police forces from all over Britain launch appeals every week to find missing Vietnamese children.Indeed, the NSPCC has said that a fifth of those referred to its child-trafficking advice centre are Vietnamese.
The children are terrified of what the trafficking gangs might do to their families back in Vietnam if their huge travel debts go unpaid.Two that I have visited — at Teteghem and Grand Synthe, both near Dunkirk — have since been closed by the authorities to try to halt trafficking.But when I went inside them in the past two years, they were full of Vietnamese who said everyone had paid a trafficking gang to get to that point, and were prepared to pay £3,000 more each to get to Britain.Since 2015, 150 Vietnamese migrant children have disappeared from care or foster homes here, never to be seen again.Nearly 90 more have gone missing and were only found after police searches, according to local authority figures published in October.Now, criminals are harvesting so much of the stuff that they are exporting it.The industry in this country is largely reliant on Vietnamese child migrants who work night and day in properties turned into cannabis factories.Most migrants, whether old or young, in the French holding camps have fled rural poverty in their own country, according to the French charity Terre d’Asile (or Land of Asylum). Traffickers tell children if they try to escape them, they will hurt them, or their family in Vietnam.The average wage for Vietnamese agricultural labourers is £88 a month, yet some have sold everything to pay traffickers up to £33,000 to get first to France, and then be smuggled across the Channel into the UK. Their parents ‘re-mortgage or sell land off’ to pay for the journey, according to a member of the anti-trafficking agency Ecpat UK. It is a real threat because the gangs know where the families are.’And here in Britain, the children’s problems get even worse as they become caught in a struggle between the council care system and the police on one side — and the gangs who want them in their clutches to set them to work as slaves on the other.The police, who’ve asked the public to help trace him, say he had run away from his foster parents’ home on two previous occasions, only to be rescued from an address ten miles away in Peckham, South London. According to the Independent Drug Monitoring Unit, there are 1.7 million to 3.6 million active cannabis users in the UK, consuming between 620 and 1,400 tonnes each year with an estimated market value of between £2.9 billion and £8.6 billion Only last week, the Mail reported how 13 Vietnamese children vanished after arriving in Britain in the back of a lorry.The ten boys and three girls (pictured) disappeared ‘one by one’ after being put into care by social workers.