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€20 000 the average price paid for a trafficked child in the UK: Europol

New report on child trafficking in Europe by mobile organised crime groups ilford-raid.jpg

18 January 2011. In a report released on 11 January, the European Law Enforcement Agency ‘Europol’ has exposed an increasing trend in the exploitation of children by mobile organised crime groups in the European Union (EU).

Children forced into criminal activities such as organised begging and shoplifting are being traded as commodities with €20 000 price tags, the average price paid for a trafficked child in the UK, according to the UK Metropolitan Police.

These groups of criminals tend to originate from South East Europe and move around the EU with the trafficked children who work for them and they trade with other criminal gangs.

The trafficking and exploitation of these children is a lucrative business, with the children being routinely sold between the different criminal gangs, and the ‘price’ based on the child’s money–earning potential.

With an estimated annual income of up to €160 000 from a single trafficked child, as calculated by Operation GOLF, an International Joint Investigation Team targeting child trafficking within the Roma community from Romania to Western Europe, the economics behind the roughly 1.2 million children being trafficked worldwide for criminal purposes reported by UNICEF is evident. The number of victims being exploited by just one mobile organised crime gang can range from 10 to 100 minors.

The report reveals how trafficked children, aged from just five years old, are systematically trained and forced into committing criminal activities such as pick-pocketing, organised begging, shoplifting and distraction burglary, as well as other street crimes like robbery and mugging. In addition, minors are also being trafficked for sexual exploitation. The severity of violence and intimidation used by these criminal groups to control and exploit the minors includes extreme forms of violence such as sexual abuse and torture. The children often come from impoverished families who are forced to hand over their children to the criminals to pay off debts. Some families are complicit in selling or renting out their children for money.

As well as exploiting children, many mobile organised criminal groups are involved in other crimes such as theft of cargo, vehicles and construction equipment, violent robberies and rip deals – where a vendor is tricked into accepting payment in large amounts of cash, which turns out to be counterfeit or just bundles of cut–up paper.

As a countermeasure to this criminal activity in the UK, London’s Metropolitan Police have been working closely as part of a Joint Investigation Team with Europol, Eurojust and the Romanian National Police. This successful operation has been in progress since 2008 and to date has led to the arrest of 126 individuals in the UK.

Earlier, 28 children were rescued by the Metropolitan Police and the operation is still ongoing to identify further criminals and victims of the gangs. In 2010, the Romanian authorities arrested 26 individuals from one organised criminal network who are facing charges of trafficking and criminally exploiting 181 named children.

Read the whole report on: Children trafficked and exploited inside Europe by criminal gangs

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