SEVEN trafficked children were found in Bournemouth last year.

The youngsters, one of whom subsequently disappeared, arrived in Dorset as a result of exploitation. They may have been physically or sexually abused, forced to work, or even sold.

Six of the children weren't UK nationals, while the seventh was. Four were given independent accommodation by Bournemouth council, while three went into foster care. One is now a long-term missing person.

Children are trafficked for child sexual exploitation, benefit fraud, forced marriage, domestic servitude including cleaning or cooking, forced labour in factories or agriculture or criminal activity such as pickpocketing or acting as drugs couriers.

Last year, the Daily Echo reported that trafficking and associated sexual abuse is a high priority for police in Dorset. Three pop-up brothels in Bournemouth holiday lets were closed between July 2017 and February 2018, and one woman rescued after she was trafficked from Germany and forced into sex work.

Penny Lodwick, children’s services manager for BCP Council, said: “These vulnerable children are looked after by the local authority in a place of safety whilst a full assessment of risk and needs is undertaken and they are supported with their health and education needs.

"We aim to safeguard and protect these children with the aim of re-uniting them with their families wherever possible.

“The new BCP Council will provide an opportunity to bring together our combined knowledge and expertise in working with these children to secure the best outcomes for them.”

Dorset's police and crime commissioner Martyn Underhill said: "Raising awareness of these offences and helping the victims hope with these awful crimes are my main priorities.

"We cannot be complacent. That is why the police's Hotel Watch scheme offers advice and support to identify potential trafficking victims across hotels in our country.

"It's such a strong tool."

A spokesperson from Dorset Police said: "Modern slavery can happen anywhere in the UK and Dorset Police are working to stamp it out in Dorset.

"With partners, officers target various locations across the county to ensure individuals are not being forced into work.

"While our officers investigate these offences and support victims, modern slavery offences are often well hidden and so we need the general public of Dorset to be our eyes and ears also.

"If anyone believes someone is being abused or exploited they should not hesitate to contact the police and report their concerns."