The majority of child victims of trafficking in France originate from the Balkans and Eastern Europe, although their exact profiles are diverse : Nigerians, Moroccans, Chinese, Afghans etc. There is also, albeit rarely, trafficking in French minors (called internal trafficking). Trafficked minors may be victims of, for example, sexual exploitation, acts of forced delinquency, exploitation of begging etc. The vast majority of minors trafficked with a view to sexual exploitation or domestic servitude are girls.
The trafficking of minors is a particularly serious crime punishable by ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of €1,500,000 per article 225-4-1 of the French Penal Code. This article states that "the trafficking of human beings in respect of a minor is committed even without any of the circumstances referred to in subparagraphs 1 to 4 (the use threat, coercion, violence or deception, etc. ),” in accordance with the provisions of international law, including the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings.
Data relating to the trafficking of minors is limited, or even non-existent, as the offence of trafficking is rarely used. The only data we have is on the procuration of minors. In 2009, 6 cases of procuration of minors of fifteen years and less were identified and 25 cases of minors over the age of fifteen, a number particularly low compared to the total number of convictions for procuration (Department of Criminal Affairs and Pardons, Ministry of Justice in Olivier Peyroux’s ‘Offenders and victim: the trafficking of children in Eastern Europe in France’). In reality, the numbers are much greater but the phenomenon remains largely overlooked: these sentences represent only the tip of the iceberg. With regard to the sexual exploitation of minors, there is not only street prostitution but also prostitution operations in enclosed spaces which contributes to the lack of objective data.
It must also be noted that among isolated non-national minors, of which there are between 4,000 and 9,000 in France, are some in situations of exploitation. Such children are rarely supported by child protection services and are particularly vulnerable.
Risk factors include family and socio -economic situation (poverty and precariousness of the family, lack of schooling, etc.) but are also case-specific. For example, a young girl may decide to marry and for her prostitution may be a conscious strategy so she can leave her country, escape from her family or culture and earn money. However, this reasoning does not change the fact that trafficking or exploitation has occurred as minors are legally incapable of consenting.
The poor levels of support for minor victims of trafficking perpetuates their precarious situation. The resources of Child Social Assistance are stretched to the limit, victims rarely benefit from education or training and the presumption of minority is not respected. Confronted with emergency situations and regarding the risk of unsuitable emergency placement that would have put young people at risk, the association AFJ, member of the Collective "Together against trafficking in human beings" led by Secours Catholique, thus take responsibility of two minor victims of trafficking. This was exceptional circumstance done in conjunction with the association Hors la Rue that was in charge of these young people in need of protection.
Photo Credit: Xavier Schwebel/Secours Catholique