Some 299 victims of human trafficking used the anonymous chat function Chat with Fier to contact a charity working to help them last year.
Most of the victims were underage girls, a quarter of whom were under 15, new figures from anti human trafficking agency CKM show. In over half of cases the abuse had been going on for more than a year. One in five of the victims reported more than one perpetrator which could mean an organised criminal network is involved, the charity said.
The CKM said the results were encouraging since this particular group of underage girls are among the most invisible victims of people trafficking.
‘Only 2% to 3% of the around 1,300 girls who fall victim to human trafficking are in view,’ spokeswoman Shamir Ceuleers said. ‘Despite our limited means this innovative approach helps us to increase this to 12%. (..) But it is still unacceptable that we don’t know where a sizeable number of these girls are.’
The charity said police and social services must be given the means to increase their expertise and commit more manpower to the problem to combat human trafficking and called on the government to prioritise proactive online help.
‘One of the most important things to help police is to make it clear what it is they actually need to get a grip on the problem. Before we start asking for millions of euros – which are needed – there has to be a thorough analysis. And that can’t wait until after the next election. We expect junior justice minister Ankie Broekers-Knol to get to work today,’ Ceuleers said.
The anonymous online chat tool used by CKM has been instrumental in uncovering other abuse, for instance by drug dealers who force youngsters to transport or sell drugs, Coeleers said. ‘But it’s the tip of the iceberg and that is why we ask the junior minister to invest in this sort of low threshold tools so we can support and help victims,’ she said.
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