Trafficking of minors: victims and criminals

On 18 October, on the occasion of European Anti-People Trafficking Day, a new Europol report was presented on trafficking of minors with up-to-date information related to this criminal phenomenon.

For the first time in this field, the report provides an insight into the features of criminal networks involved in one of the most sinister crimes of all: the abuse of vulnerable children. For the purpose of the report, operational intelligence was used drawing from 600 contributions that implicated victims of minor trafficking, which were communicated to Europol by member states between 2015 and 2017.

In Europe, thousands of minors continue to be the object of trafficking and exploitation in order to generate profits for criminal networks, which represent over 20% of all identified victims of trafficking according to UNICEF. Europol receives increasing amounts of information about trafficking networks that operate via member states, taking advantage of the vulnerability of children, to exploit them sexually or exploit them in terms of labour. Other criminal groups place victims in the streets to ask for money, oblige them to commit a range of crimes or sell them via illegal adoption networks.

These are some of the conclusions of the report of the situation of criminal networks related to the trafficking and exploitation of minors in the European Union:

  • One of the most serious aspects of this phenomenon is the role of the family, which in some cases directly procures the trafficking and exploitation of its own children. Europol receives recurring information of children being sold to criminal networks by their families.
  • Women tend to have a key role in the trafficking and exploitation of minors, much more than in criminal networks where they are victims of adult trafficking.
  • Most cases reported to Europol involve networks that accompany non-community minors along the route from their country of origin to the site of exploitation, often with the participation of smuggling networks. Illegal trafficking of minors via external borders and to member states usually involves the use of false travel documents.
  • The profits gained with such crime are mainly redirected to the suspect’s country of origin, in small quantities via services transferring money and in larger quantities using mails and criminal mules.
  • Children trafficking is directed towards the EU from all over the world. Most non-community networks of people trafficking informed Europol that groups of organised criminals were involved. For example, In Nigeria young people were deceived and forced to be sexually exploited in Europe.
  • Migrating children and non-accompanied minors were at a high risk of being trafficked and exploited. Although the scale of the trafficking of non-accompanied minors continues to be unknown, an increase is expected in the future.


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