Two arrested in international child trafficking investigation

Spanish Police (Photo: Politie)Spanish Police (Photo: Politie)

A man and woman were arrested in Spain last week in connection with a large international investigation into child trafficking and exploitation. The investigation was launched in Amsterdam last year when the Dutch police noticed that kids were being used for pickpocketing, shoplifting and thefts in the city, the police announced on Wednesday.

The two suspects, both from former Yugoslavia, are suspected of human trafficking and participation in a criminal network. The police believe they form part of one of four large networks which they have in sight. These networks are active both in the Netherlands and abroad, so the Dutch investigation team is cooperating closely with agencies in Spain, Austria, Bosnia and Croatia, among others.

When the two suspects were arrested in Barcelona, the Spanish police also discovered six children, including a baby in "appalling conditions". They are four girls and two boys between the ages of 0 and 15 years. According to the police, they were living in a filthy house and are considered victims of trafficking.

The Spanish authorities agreed to allow the Salvation Army and child protection institute Stichting Nidos to bring four of the kids and the baby to the Netherlands. They are now in a safe place, the police said.

According to the police, the investigation so far revealed that at least 300 children were forced into a life of crime by these traffickers. Most of the children come from Eastern Europe. The trafficking networks used the kids in shoplifting and pickpocketing. It is also believed that the girls are being sexually abused. The police found that many of them become pregnant at a young age.

The two suspects in Barcelona will soon be transferred to the Netherlands.

"I feel that this is the tip of the iceberg, that there are more children in the Netherlands victim to this", prosecutor Warner ten Kate said to news wire ANP. According to the prosecutor, the main purpose of this investigation is to rescue all the children involved. "Of course we also want to undermine the responsible network."