New report: National Rapporteur concerned about Syrian child brides and Roma children

The Dutch National Rapporteur is concerned about the vulnerability of Roma children, Syrian child brides and children illegally staying in the Netherlands who are forced to do domestic work. In a new report she points out that these groups are not seen enough from a human trafficking perspective. ‘As a result, the chance is that the human trafficking that could be going on in these groups fails to be seen as such.’ Today, National Rapporteur Corinne Dettmeijer-Vermeulen presented the report to the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice, Mr Ard van der Steur.

Vulnerable children

In her report, the National Rapporteur examines seven groups of children to see how vulnerable they may be to human trafficking. Corinne Dettmeijer is concerned about the vulnerability of a group of Roma children. ‘I have seen some Roma children being forced to go out and steal on the streets’, the rapporteur said. ‘Although criminal exploitation occurs it is not always recognised as such. The child is arrested as a criminal and punished, forgetting that he or she may have been coerced into committing a crime. The Public Prosecution Service, the police and the local authorities need to be better trained and informed.

Child brides

The rapporteur also points out that child marriages occur in the Netherlands, drawing attention to the Syrian child brides who travel from Syria, often with an adult male. Between September 2015 and January 2016 around 60 child brides entered the Netherlands. ‘A targeted approach makes Syrian child brides less vulnerable to human trafficking and sexual violence’, says the National Rapporteur. ‘These girls often find themselves socially isolated, enabling possible abuse and exploitation to continue unabated for a lengthy period. They are at a heightened risk of becoming domestic slaves or hidden wives.’

In the Roma community, children are at risk of being pushed into marriage. The rapporteur’s report examines the relationship between these arranged child marriages and human trafficking and sexual violence against children. ‘Right now no active approach is in place under criminal law to tackle forced child marriages. The National Rapporteur is concerned because several criminal laws are potentially being broken. The vulnerability of children in such marriages has admittedly been spotlighted more in recent years but no real consequences have been attached.’ The National Rapporteur recommends opting more frequently for a criminal investigation. ‘We cannot allow a situation in which children are coerced into marrying and subsequently forced into having sex in a created setting. The policy of the Public Prosecution Service must be targeted more at prosecuting such acts.’

Other groups

Besides looking at Roma children and Syrian child brides, this report also focusses on children from the LGBT community, children with the eating disorder anorexia nervosa, children who want to join ISIS and children working in production chains of major companies. The rapporteur also looked at children who are illegally staying in the Netherlands and who are being forced into domestic work, a group that Corinne Dettmeijer sees as being ‘extremely vulnerable’, but of which we have no clear view. ‘The cases I examined often involved years of exploitation in the Netherlands during which the child was occasionally encountered by people in the Dutch community though apparently without the warning signs being spotted.’