Child trafficking: the reality

Katerina was a child when her mother died and her father became alcoholic and started beating her. A cousin said he would get her out of this situation and into a ‘normal” life. She was then trafficked from Eastern Europe and was sold like a slave. 

The story of Katerina is not unique. 200.000 women and girls are trafficked every year for prostitution in Southeastern Europe. Tragically only 1-2 % of victims in Europe are rescued and those of them found are scared, alone and taught to live with fear.

It is important to remember that every number represents the life and the soul of a human being. It is our responsibility to prevent this slavery of our times and we have the power to do this.

Victims of trafficking are often recruited, transported or harboured by force, coercion or fraud in abusive conditions, including sexual exploitation, forced labor or services, begging, criminal activities, or the removal of organs.

Trafficking in human beings is a severe crime that takes many different forms, but whether they were sold for sex, hard labor in agriculture, construction, or the textile industry, or forced into domestic labor, victims share similarly gruesome stories.

Children are the most vulnerable group of victims of trafficking in human beings. Children forced into criminal activities such as organised begging and shoplifting are being traded as commodities with €20 000 price tags. 

Having to provide services seven days a week to pay back ridiculous amounts of money to their traffickers, victims are in many cases locked in and only allowed out for 'work'.

Barred from contacting their families and going to school, they are threatened by their traffickers and live in fear. With virtually no means to escape, and having been made fearful by their traffickers, these children live like slaves with devastating consequences and a profound impact on their health and well-being.

The Statistics

  • Child trafficking is estimated to generate $ 12 billion annually at a global level, one of the largest global organized crime today according to UNICEF;
  • Estimates from the International Labor Organization put the number of victims of forced labor, including forced sexual exploitation, at 20.9 million at a global level. 5.5 million of these are children.
  • According to Europol, children and women are the most at risk for human trafficking in the European Union. Over the recent years the percentage of children trafficked has risen to 27%, with one out of three victims a boy;
  • Eurostat estimates that 15% of trafficking victims are children in the European Union;
  • Trafficking for sexual purposes is the most common form of trafficking in the European Union, although an increasing number of victims are trafficked into sectors such as tourism, construction, catering, nursing and domestic service; 
  • The International Organization of Labor estimates that 98% of sexual trafficking victims are female;
  • 200.000 women and girls are trafficked every year in Southeast Europe for prostitution according to the US Department of State;
  • Over 25% of sex trafficked victims are trafficked from Southern and Eastern Europe.
  • Only 1-2% of victims in Europe are rescued and only 1 in 100.000 Europeans involved in trafficking are convicted.

Victor’s campaign

Prevention of trafficking in children can be improved through awareness raising activities and campaigns targeted particularly to certain categories of vulnerable groups of children which are at greater risk for human trafficking.

These groups of children include missing children, unaccompanied minors, children left behind, children with disabilities, as well as children belonging to minority groups. Prevention can also be achieved by improving the knowledge of the emerging trends of recruitment, including recruitment on the internet (especially through the social networks), as well as recruitment through intermediaries. Raising awareness and providing proper information could be a crucial point for children at risk to better understand, thus adequately respond to situations they are likely to face, through which they may become victims of trafficking.

For these purposes, as an integral part of the Victor Project, partnering organizations of this project are campaigning in their respective countries towards raising awareness on the phenomenon and improving the level of prevention.

Victor’s campaign is mainly focused on the:

  • Countries of origin with the aim to improve prevention and effectively reach out children potential victims of trafficking, especially among the most vulnerable groups.
  • Countries of destination with the aim to reduce demand and reach out potential “clients” of goods and/or services provided by victims of trafficking.

The campaign package includes the screening of 2 TV trailers produced in 8 languages, the dissemination of printed informative material on child trafficking, the organization of raising-awareness events and interventions in the countries participating to the project and the engagement of public and local communities. The operation of information desks will support the aim of this campaign by providing relevant information on the phenomenon and improving the level of knowledge of the actors involved. 

What comes to the mind of victims when they hear the word “trafficking”?

“It reminds me of my life and that of my colleagues.
It's like slavery”

“I know what it means, it had just happened to me.
I was being sold as though I was cattle. I was being
captured and stripped of all my dignity”.

“Disgust and hate for all those people. It is a nightmare,
I'd never have thought that so many girls get in such

“I remember my story. Police are combating it, but not
very successfully”

The Information Desks

In the framework of the project, information desks established in Greece, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria are providing information on child trafficking and raising awareness among the general public and the most vulnerable communities and children. 

The operation of the information Desks is being carried out by the following NGO’s – partners of this project in close cooperation with the respective state authorities:

  1. The Smile of the Child – Greece
  2. Save the Children-Romania (*the helpline 0800 800 678 is operated by The National Agency against Trafficking in Persons)
  3. Society KLJUC-Slovenia
  4. Nadja Center Foundation-Bulgaria

This activity is building upon the strong experience of these organizations in the field of child protection and trafficking and is based on the operation of already existing mechanisms and tools of assistance such as the 116 000 European Hotline for Missing children, national Helplines for Missing and Trafficked children and the support of the Southeastern European Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (SEEC).  

The operation of the information desks involves two major activities:

  1. In-house activities focused on providing information on child trafficking through the operation of helplines/hotlines of assistance, the organization of informative sessions, lectures, workshops etc.
  2. Activities focused on reaching out vulnerable communities, schools, professionals from various fields (e.g. health workers, social workers, and labor inspectors) and encouraging participation to the project and possibly to other raising-awareness campaigns.

More specifically, the information desks aim to address the specific needs and situation of each country in the field of child trafficking by.

  1. providing general information to the public on the phenomenon of trafficking and child trafficking;
  2. sharing basic information on international legal instruments and national legislation related to the Trafficking in Human Beings;
  3. informing the public on potential means of recruitment of victims and, in particularly, children victims of trafficking as well as on new emerging trends of recruitment through the use of Internet and online social networks;
  4. reaching out the most vulnerable communities and children in order to raise awareness on the phenomenon;
  5. providing relevant guidance to professionals from different fields (law enforcement authorities, social workers, teachers, health workers, labor inspectors etc.), who are likely to come in contact with children victims or potential victims of trafficking;
  6. supporting the activities of the project and complementing with other raising awareness campaigns.
The results drawn from the operation of the Info-Desks and the review on the National Referral Mechanisms (NRM) that was carried out as part of the project will be reflected in a policy paper that will be presented to the EU Civil Society Platform against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Child Well-being Fund Ukraine Greek Ministry of Justice Transparency and Human Rights Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the European Union La Strada Ministry of Public Order & Citizen Protection Nadja Centre Foundation National Agency against Trafficking in Persons NCCTHB NGO ASTRA Save the Children SEEC SELEC Society Kljuc Terre des hommes' The Smile of the Child