If you live in or visit a major European city / large town, you will have heard of children pick pocketing and be aware of the young boys, girls and women begging on busy streets and in tourist hotspots. I have seen this in London, Berlin and Barcelona.
When children or women, many from Roma communities in Central and Eastern Europe approach you saying ‘speak English?’, wearing tatty clothing and often carrying a baby, it is easy to brush them aside. Before you shoo them away next time, remember this….
Throughout Europe, the Roma community are discriminated against and live in relative poverty. Amnesty international found anti-Roma or anti-gypsy sentiment in every EU country and a 2007 UN report stated 70% of Roma housing did not have running water. This means Roma people do not have equal access to jobs, housing, health and education leaving them vulnerable to exploitation.
In the last 10 years there has been growing concern that members of the Roma community are being trafficked to the more prosperous countries of Western Europe.
Austria. Authorities found that some Roma children had been sold by their parents or kidnapped and were forced to beg / steal in Vienna. Victims had to earn €250 a day, if they did they were rented to paedophiles for €300 a day.
Italy. In 2007, police exposed a criminal gang controlling 50 Roma children
Spain. In 2007 authorities in Valencia uncovered a network of Romanian Roma adults trafficking and exploiting Roma children. Children were sold between gangs for €20,000 and if the victims did not ‘earn’ enough, they were sold at a daily rate to paedophiles
England. As part of wider police operation (Operation Golf), a man and woman were put in prison a few days ago for forcing 6 Roma children to beg up to 12 hours a day. Victims were not sent to school, had no access to doctors and some were sacred with cigarette burns.
To get the scale of the problem, Operation Golf found that between 2007 – 2010, over 1100 children have been trafficked out of one small town in Romania. That’s crazy.
I think this shocking trend shows that:
1) Stereotypes are dangerous and mean people don’t get the help they need
2) The Roma community need to be more aware of what is happening
3) Roma villages and their larger community need to question where their children have gone whilst looking at all the massive new build houses and cars zipping past
4) People in Western European countries may be encountering trafficking victims on a daily basis. Keep your eyes open for our new ACT resource helping you SPOT and STOP THE TRAFFIK in your area to be released this autumn
Want to find out more….
UK Home Office Affairs Committee (2009), the Trade in Human Beings. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200809/cmselect/cmhaff/23/2304.htm