Children as young as ten are being smuggled to Britain to toil in dangerous cannabis hothouses, police have revealed.
Under-age workers from Vietnam and China are among those working as gardeners in illegal drug factories, often producing highly potent skunk. Gangs are waiving the £15,000 fees they would normally charge to bring people to Britain because the child labour can help generate multi-million-pound profits.
An estimated six per cent of all children trafficked here – often in locked containers – are forced to work in the factories.
The revelations come as national charity Crimestoppers launches a week-long campaign to raise awareness of Britain's booming drug culture.
Three-bedroom urban and rural homes converted to produce cannabis can each make around £1.2million a year in profits.
The youngest child discovered working in the hothouses was just ten, according to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), though most were about 16.
One orphaned girl from south-east Asia told investigators that she was sent to Britain by her guardian, via an agent – but refused to incriminate anyone.
CEOP said: 'Exploiters often take on the role of a “mother” or “uncle” and express familial affection for their victims.
This instils feelings of loyalty by which traffickers are better able to manipulate their victims.'
Campaigners have called for prosecutors and police to treat under-age cannabis farmers as victims rather than defendants.
Glynn Rankin, deputy head of the UK Human Trafficking Centre, said: 'When child victims are recovered from cannabis factories we have to make sure their rights come first – there's no way they can properly have consented to these roles.'
To pass on information about crime, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or go to www.crimestoppers-uk.org
Source - http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article..._hothouses&in_article_id=680479&in_page_id=34