by Faith Malmer
In a world where virtually everything can be bought, it seems that children are paying the ultimate price. Now ECPAT has released a report on Luxembourg's effort to prevent a growing trade and the verdict is worrying.
The non-profit organisation ECPAT (''End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes'') has released a report on Luxembourg's progress in fighting an increasing problem. Regularly treated as commodities on the black market, trafficked children are often valued less than drugs or other illegal merchandise.
The trade in human beings is part of an underground economy that is difficult to trace, with international criminal organisations driving the flow between supply and demand in a multi-billion Euro criminal empire. Sold for grotesque purposes like forced labour, prostitution, pornography, or organ removal, these victims, usually vulnerable women and children, are at the mercy of traffickers.
Luxembourg's role in child trafficking
Luxembourg, together with Belgium and the Netherlands, represents a key strategic point in the complex human trafficking network as it is usually identified as both a 'transit' and 'destination' country with cross-border operations usually bringing in their 'merchandise' from Eastern Europe or West Africa.
However, it would be wrong to think that these children do not end up in the Grand Duchy. Neither is it possible to illustrate the extent of the situation locally as the information is rather ''sporadic and anecdotal'', as ECPAT Project Officer Hannar Bristow labels it. This specific business is not visible in the streets in specific neighbourhoods like the Gare area. It goes on behind closed doors.
Bristow explains: ''The trafficking of children is an increasing problem despite the actions that are being taken to prevent it. It is partly due to research highlighting more and more problems, but getting to the root of it is very difficult because it is so underground and illegal. The business is often run by local Mafia and it is often dangerous to get involved in it''.
While efforts to stop the problem are highly publicised abroad, particularly in the tourist hotspots of Southeast Asia, Latin America and Africa, the general notion in Luxembourg is that it does not happen here. According to the government, one single case involving child trafficking occurred between 2000 and 2007.
More needs to be done
The ECPAT report severely criticises the fact that Luxembourg has no concrete set of measures to specifically deal with the problem of child trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Neither is enough being done in terms of awareness-raising activities and education. ''The police need to be trained to recognise and sensitively deal with a case of child trafficking as well as offer the necessary support'', Bristow adds.
Above all, it is the creation of an inter-ministerial committee that ECPAT wants to see as it will lead to the collection and centralisation of data, statistics and information on the trafficking of children in the region. This should, if done right, lead to more transparency and identify what needs to be done in order to effectively counter the problem.
The European Union has recently stepped up to make the fight against general human trafficking a priority. In December it passed a directive requiring all member states to improve prevention and protection measures. A new website was also launched to provide information on the situation in each European country. In addition, Anti-Trafficking Coordinator Myria Vassiliadou was appointed to improve coordination and coherence between countries and organisations.
Image © ECPAT Campaign