Child trafficking on rise in EU
19 May 2016
Young women trafficked for prostitution form the largest group exploited by gangs
The number of children trafficked to EU countries by gangs - often for prostitution - is rising and the UK is a major destination, new data show.
The European Commission says child trafficking is "one of the trends that is increasing most sharply".
In 2013-2014 there were 15,846 registered victims of trafficking in the EU, at least 15% of them children.
Three-quarters of the victims were women, and 67% were trafficked for sex. Many other victims were not detected.
According to the official Commission figures, the UK registered 1,358 victims in 2013-2014, and the Netherlands registered the most - 1,561.
The Commission's research identified ever younger children becoming victims of trafficking and growing numbers of girls from Nigeria being pressed into the sex trade.
Macedonia, June 2015: People traffickers have profited from the Balkan route in the migrant crisis
The EU has also seen an increase in the number of unaccompanied child asylum-seekers at risk of criminal exploitation.
Children from poor Roma (Gypsy) communities are particularly vulnerable to trafficking, the Commission says, with the UK and France the main destination countries. Once there, they are exploited for sex, begging and petty crimes.
The Commission report says "there are solid grounds to believe that the actual numbers of victims of trafficking in the EU are substantially higher".
A report by the EU police agency Europol in February noted that most victims of human trafficking (71%) and most suspects (70%) in Europe were EU nationals.
In 2015 Italy saw a 300% increase in the number of Nigerian victims of trafficking arriving by sea compared to 2014, with about half of them unaccompanied children.
Europe's migrant crisis, fuelled chiefly by wars in the Middle East and unrest in Libya, has given trafficking gangs many new opportunities for criminal exploitation.
The top five EU countries of origin for victims were: Romania (top - 3,959), followed by Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Poland.
Non-EU victims came mainly from Nigeria (1,188), followed by China, Albania, Vietnam and Morocco.
The report says the EU's Schengen Information System (SIS) - a cross-border database - is especially useful as a tool for tracking down child victims. It contains more than 30,000 alerts on missing adults and almost 60,000 alerts on missing minors.
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