Vulnerability up close. An exploratory study into the vulnerability of children to human trafficking

Vulnerability up close. An exploratory study into the vulnerability of children to human trafficking

The National Rapporteur is concerned about the position of Roma children, Syrian child brides and children living illegally in the Netherlands who are required to work in households. In ‘Vulnerability up close’, Corinne Dettmeijer observes that too little attention is devoted to the situation of these groups of children from the perspective of human trafficking. ‘As a result, there is a risk that human trafficking occurring within these groups is not being seen.’

The National Rapporteur investigated the potential vulnerability to human trafficking of seven groups of children. She is concerned about the position of some Roma children. ‘I have found that some Roma children are forced to steal on the street,’ she says. ‘This is a form of criminal exploitation, but it is not always treated as such. The child is arrested and punished as a criminal, but what is forgotten is that he or she may have been forced to commit crimes. The public prosecution service, the police and the municipalities must be better prepared to deal with that.’'

Child marriages

In the report, the Rapporteur also observes that child marriages occur in the Netherlands. The report looks at the situation of Syrian child brides, children who have travelled from Syria, often with an older man. Approximately 60 child brides arrived in the Netherlands between September 2015 and January 2016. ‘The absence of specific measures makes Syrian child brides vulnerable not only to human trafficking, but also to sexual violence,’ says the National Rapporteur. ‘These girls often find themselves socially isolated, which means that any abuse and exploitation can continue for a long time. There is a risk that they will eventually become domestic slaves or hidden women.’

Within the Roma community, there are children who are forced into marriage. The Rapporteur investigated the relationship between these arranged child marriages and human trafficking and sexual violence against children. ‘At the moment there is no active policy designed to tackle forced marriages of children under criminal law. The National Rapporteur is concerned about that because parents who arrange these marriages could be breaking various laws. Despite the growing attention devoted to the position of children in these marriages in recent years, there have been no real consequences.’ In her report, the National Rapporteur recommends greater use of criminal-law sanctions to address this problem. ‘Forcing children to marry and then creating a setting in which they are required to have sex must not be permitted. The policy of the Public Prosecution Service should be geared far more to bringing prosecutions in these situations.’

Specific approach needed

In the report published today, the National Rapporteur investigated the vulnerability to human trafficking of seven groups of children. In addition to the aforementioned groups, the study also explored the situation of children in the LHBT community, children with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, children who join or wish to join ISIS and children who work in the production chains of large companies. The Rapporteur also investigated children living illegally in the Netherlands who are required to perform domestic work, a group that Corinne Dettmeijer regards as ‘very vulnerable’ but about whom little is known. ‘In the cases I investigated the children had often been exploited for years in the Netherlands and although there had been a number of occasions when the child had social contact, no alarm bells had ever gone off.’