Posted by BBC News on
Children are being trafficked into the UK from Africa and used for human sacrifices, a confidential report for the Metropolitan Police suggests.
Children are being beaten and even murdered after being labelled as witches by pastors, the report leaked to BBC Radio 4's Today programme said.
Police face a "wall of silence" in investigations because of fear and mistrust among the groups involved.
It follows the case of a girl tortured by her guardians for being a witch.
Three people, including the girl's aunt, were convicted of trying to "beat the devil out of" the un-named 10-year-old - originally from Angola.
The report was commissioned by the Met after the death of Victoria Climbie in February 2000 and because of concerns over so-called faith crimes.
The 10-month probe was also intended to be part of efforts to "open a dialogue" with Asian and African communities to prevent child abuse in the London boroughs of Hackney and Newham.
Information was gathered with the help of social workers, human rights lawyers and race relations experts from within these ethnic minority groups.
"The most gruesome details come from the African communities," he said.
"This report talks of rituals, of witchcraft, being practised in churches in London. It is described as big business."
It said that people who are desperate seek out churches to cast spells for them.
"Members of the workshop said for spells to be powerful it required a sacrifice of a male child unblemished by circumcision," the report said.
Contributors said boys were being trafficked into the UK for this purpose, but did not give details because they said they feared they would be "dead meat" if they told any more.
There were also claims that youngsters were being smuggled into the UK as domestic slaves and for men with HIV who believed if they had sex with a child they would be cleansed.
The authors of the report point out that these claims are only allegations, but say there were "countless examples" of these forms of child abuse.
They also claim that children could be in "serious and possible life-threatening situations".
The report also spoke of a wide gulf between child protection agencies and those in the communities involved, which means people are reluctant to get in touch with the authorities.
Police described this as a "wall of silence" prompted by concerns that individuals would be "betraying" their family, community and faith if they spoke out.
It also acknowledged the sensitivity of the issue as the abuse was a product of individuals' faith and beliefs.
Independent adviser to the Met John Azah said that since the Climbie case and the ritualistic murder of a black child known as "Adam", there were concerns the police were only touching the "tip of the iceberg".
"A few weeks ago the Met put out a number of 300 black children missing from schools.
"There's no evidence that any of these children have been traced.
"Therefore perhaps there's something terrible happening out there which we are not aware of."
This was why the police, quite rightly, were doing quite a lot of work to see if children were being murdered or not, he added.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke said it was important countries worked together to tackle crimes related to people-trafficking.
The Met had a special unit to address these particular issues, he said.
"But it's classically an issue, like all people-trafficking issues, where people are being moved across the whole world, essentially for money, by very substantial criminal organisations."
The challenge was how could the organisations most effectively be contested, he said.
The report called for the social services department to determine how many faith organisations exist and where they are situated.
It also urged the Met to highlight the work of child protection agencies to try to encourage the reporting of crimes.
The Met said the report was drawn up after workshops debating issues such as female genital mutilation, physical chastisement, forced marriage and faith-related child abuse were held.
It added: "The recommendations in the report are being carefully considered at the highest levels in the MPS in conjunction with partner agencies and community groups."
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