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Europe: Child trafficking conference

Publish Date: 18 Mar 2005

Source: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
By Roland Eggleston

Europe: Vienna Conference Discussing Trafficking In Children

International experts are meeting in Vienna today to discuss what can be done to stop trafficking in young girls and boys. These children are often taken by criminal gangs to work for low wages in sweatshops or are forced into prostitution.

Munich (RFE/RL) -- According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), some 1.2 million children around the world are trafficked each year.

No official figures exist for the number of children forced into prostitution or crime in Europe, but some human rights organizations believe it runs into the thousands.

More than 200 international experts are meeting in Vienna today to hear reports on the use of young girls and boys from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in prostitution, criminal gangs, and pornography.

The meeting -- which is not expected to reach any formal conclusions -- has been organized by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  

An OSCE spokeswoman, Christiane Hardy, said trafficking exists in many of the 55 member countries of the organization.

"If you talk about the OSCE, [trafficking] is all over," Hardy said. "The countries of origin are mostly countries in the East and the Central European countries."

International experts have expressed particular concern about trafficking in children from Moldova, Albania, Belarus, and the Balkans.

A UNICEF report says that in some European and Balkan countries, children as young as 11 are known to work as prostitutes. Children between the ages of 10 and 12 have been used to make pornographic films.

Hardy said that, in another form of trafficking, girls and boys from poor families are lured by traffickers to work in sweatshops or as underpaid domestic servants. Others are taken to cities in the West and forced to work in gangs of beggars. She said some become thieves.

Hardy said trafficking also covers many less obvious issues. As an example, she said the OSCE also considers the sale of Eastern European babies to childless Western couples to be a form of trafficking. Until recently, it was common for childless parents to buy babies from middlemen in Romania and take them to the West.

The expert reports presented at the Vienna meeting will include that of a senior official of the European police organization, Europol, as well as others from UNICEF, the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and the anti-trafficking section of the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

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