Child trafficking is about taking children out of their protective environment and preying on their vulnerability for the purpose of exploitation. Although no precise figures exist, the ILO (in 2005) estimated that 980,000 to 1,225,000 children – both boys and girls – are in a forced labour situation as a result of trafficking.
ILO Convention No. 182 (1999) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (WFCL) classifies trafficking among “forms of slavery or practices similar to slavery” and thereby a WFCL to be eliminated as a matter of urgency, irrespective of the country’s level of development.
The trafficking in children – internally in countries, across national borders and across continents – is closely interlinked with the demand for cheap malleable and docile labour in sectors and among employers where the working conditions and the treatment grossly violates the human rights of the children. These are characterized by environments that are unacceptable (the unconditional worst forms) as well as dangerous to the health and the development of the child (hazardous worst forms). These forms range from bonded labour, camel jockeying, child domestic labour, commercial sexual exploitation and prostitution, drug couriering, and child soldiering to exploitative or slavery-like practices in the informal industrial sector.
As part of larger initiatives to combat the worst forms of child labour, the ILO’s International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) works with governments, workers and employers’ organizations and NGOs to fight child trafficking It works with them to offer broad protection to children at risk and victims, prevent the crime of trafficking, enforce laws and prosecute traffickers, and assist victims in need. Where appropriate, services are offered at source, in transit and at destination. The Programme takes into account the national, sub-regional and regional specificities of the root causes of children’s vulnerability, mechanisms and routes used by traffickers, and the nature of exploitation that takes place, as well as the legal and cultural contexts.
The Roadmap for Eliminating the Worst Forms of Child Labour by 2016 , adopted at The Hague Child Labour Conference in May 2010, calls for international cooperation to combat child trafficking, and achievement of the goal of elimination of the worst forms of child labour – including child trafficking – by 2016.