Writes Zeus, Content writer, Headline Diplomat eMagazine, LUDCI.eu
Apart from drug trafficking and illegal arms, human trafficking is one of the biggest international crime industries around the globe. 27% of all human trafficking cases are children. Child trafficking is a heinous crime and represents the sudden end of childhood. It entails forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriage, domestic servitude, removal of organs, and exploitation of children in begging.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately 1.2 million children are trafficked every year. Half of them are girls. Most of the girls are sexually ill-used in this multi-billion dollar commercial sex industry. Around 168 million kids are victims of forced labor, 215 million kids are involved in child labor, and 115 million kids engage in dangerous work.
The International Organization for Migration estimates that 3, 000 children are trafficked every day. This is equivalent to 21, 000 children weekly and 84, 000 children monthly. Furthermore, the organization estimates that human traffickers make up to 10 billion USD every year, for trafficking women only.
ILO has estimated that the least number of people in forced labour, including sexual exploitation, due to trafficking at any given time, is 2.5 million. Among these, 130, 000 are in the Sub-Saharan countries, 200, 000 in countries with economies in transition, 230, 000 are in the Middle East and Northern Africa, 270, 000 in industrialized countries, and 1.4 are in Asia and the Pacific.
Gratefully, there are several law enforcement agencies fighting child trafficking. Most of these agencies work with one another, local governments, and communities to ensure child trafficking is combated. Apart from agencies, some organizations that are fighting child trafficking, such as Save the Children and The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).
Law enforcement agencies fighting child trafficking: budget and number of children saved
International and regional agencies and organizations are working together to crack down on child trafficking syndicates. This article highlights the number of children saved by law enforcement agencies around the world. The principal law enforcement agencies across the globe include the FBI, EUROPOL, INTERPOL, and NATO. Other organizations that work closely with these law enforcement agencies are UNODC, ILO, UNICEF, and CEPOL.
“I started living on the streets when I was 11 years old – my father threw my brother and me out of the house. He never worried about us – he was always taking alcohol combined with drugs. On the streets, I met prostitution and crime. One always dreams about being somebody, and that having material things makes you somebody. I never imagined that wanting to improve my living conditions, I was going to end up losing my dignity,” Maria Fernanda, a trafficking victim, told UNODC County Office in Colombia. Such reports can help law enforcement agencies to track and arrest child traffickers.
International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL)
INTERPOL is made up of 194 member countries, who work together and with the General Secretariat to share information linked to police investigations. They play a huge role in stopping child trafficking as they can share data among member countries. Since 2014, Interpol has conducted various successful child rescue missions and arrested many offenders. Between 2014 to date, Interpol has rescued at least 700 children from child traffickers. The biggest rescue was in 2017 in Operation Opervier, where they rescued a total of 236 minors.
“In addition to arrests, this operation has opened a number of ongoing investigations to further disrupt the crime networks involved in trafficking in human beings, emphasizing the effectiveness of such operations via INTERPOL’s international network,” said Yoro Traore, a Police Inspector with the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Bamako.
Europol is the European Union’s law enforcement agency, whose main role is to help have a safer Europe for the good of all EU citizens. They conduct this by helping the European Union’s Member States in their battle against grievous international crime and terrorism, such as child trafficking.
Europol helped in rescuing and identifying of over 200 children who were being abused. The police arrested 184 suspected child sex offenders, and 670 other suspects had been identified. The outstanding operation, dubbed Operation Rescue, was one of the biggest investigations of its type by law enforcement agencies around the globe. The outcomes were a result of effective police collaboration across several countries.
“I am proud of the exceptional work of our experts in helping police authorities around the world to record these groundbreaking results. The safeguarding of so many vulnerable children is particularly rewarding and demonstrates the commitment of our agency to make Europe a safer place for its citizens. I also pay tribute to the relevant authorities in Europe and elsewhere for their operational work in tracking down the suspected criminals and their victims,” says Rob Wainwright, Director of Europol.
The FBI has an operation dubbed “Operation Cross Country,” where it rescues underage victims of child trafficking. The agency partners with the local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) to recover victims of child trafficking, as part of its Innocence Lost National initiative. At least 500 minor victims of child trafficking have been recovered from 2015 to date in this operation. The name of the operation was recently changed from Operation Cross Country to Operation Independence Day.
“The FBI fiercely focused on recovering child victims and arresting the sex traffickers who exploit them,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a statement. “Through operations like this, the FBI helps child victims escape the abusive life of sex trafficking.”
With the assistance of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), the FBI has recovered more than 6, 600 child victims and convicted around 3, 000 traffickers from 2003. NCMEC is an organization that deals with reporting for all issues linked to the prevention of and recovery from child exploitation, abuse, and abduction. Between 2014 and 2018, NCMEC helped in the recovery of more than 3, 000 lost children, including 234 that have been missing for more than 10 years. The agency has also helped in identifying 139 deceased children, offering vital closure to the grieving families.
“Adobe solutions touch everything that we do – from finding children to engaging the public – and it helps us fulfill our mission of keeping children safe,” said Michelle DeLaune, Senior VP and COO of NCMEC. “We’ve helped to reunite hundreds of families because someone recognized age-progressed images we created using Adobe Photoshop. Seeing those children reunited with their families years later reminds us why we will never give up on finding our missing children.”
Over the years, child trafficking cases have increased exponentially, as it has been highlighted above. This monster requires concerted efforts as no country, agency, or organization can handle it alone. Child trafficking involves various crimes requiring law enforcement to join forces with different partners to combat this vice. International law enforcement agencies, governments, non-governmental entities, juvenile justice departments, organizations, and communities would need to work collaboratively to rescue victims and successfully prosecute wrongdoers.
With more agencies and organizations battling child trafficking, there is a better chance of combating this nightmare. However, all parties involved have to play their part to overcome challenges such as obstacles to international co-operation, problems with national legislative frameworks, public awareness, and loss of information.