Every year thousands of children and young people in the Netherlands end up in crime. According to a study published on Thursday by the Center against Child Trafficking and Human Trafficking (CKM), over 2,500 young victims were forced to commit criminal offenses in 13 investigated cities in the past two years. In that period, the authorities knew of only 68 cases nationwide.
According to CKM spokesperson Shamir Ceuleers, this shows that criminal exploitation of children and young people is a mostly “invisible pillar under the revenue model of criminals.” Ceuleers: “If we fail to identify and protect these victims, there is a good chance that we will lose them to the criminal circuit.” The minors are forced to commit a variety of crimes, like drug offenses, theft, and recruitment for prostitution.
It often involves vulnerable children and young people who cannot or do not dare to ask for help themselves. They sometimes don’t realize that they are a victim, or are afraid of the perpetrator, or of being persecuted themselves. According to the CKM, these minors can therefore remain in an exploitative situation for a long time. If they come into the picture, this is more often as perpetrators than as victims.
In order to recruit young victims for criminal offenses, perpetrators deliberately seek out primary schools, vocational schools, or even care institutions. Often the minors are forced to commit crimes with “subtle forms of coercion.” For example, offenders abuse the vulnerable position of the child, a possible mild intellectual disability, minorities, or debt or addiction problems.
About 1,600 primary care professionals like youth workers, community police officers, and school attendance officers took part in this survey. At least half of them said that they had contact with suspected victims in the past two years. In addition, 20 percent said they knew a victim who had been exploited criminally and sexually.
“When tackling this and preventing young recruits, we must realize that not everyone who commits criminal offenses does so voluntarily,” said Ceuleers. “That realization is lacking in the Dutch approach.” The Ministry of Justice and Security commissioned the report. It contains several recommendations to Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius.