Romanian traffickers grooming girls as young as 10 to work as prostitutes in the UK
Romanian sex traffickers are grooming girls as young as 10 in school playgrounds and forcing them into prostitution in the UK, according to a shocking new documentary.
Using the so-called "lover boy method", recruiters target vulnerable youngsters convincing them they are in a relationship before then exploiting them.
Operating in schools across Romania, the traffickers are believed to have targeted hundreds of young girls, who are later brought to the UK and put to work in the sex industry.
The "lover boy method" takes advantage of a loophole in the Romanian legal system whereby if a girl leaves of her own free will, and no complaint is made, the police cannot treat it as a crime.
Recruited at school
Iana Matei, who runs a shelter in Romania for children who have been trafficked for sex, told the BBC: “The lover-boy method is the most horrible method of recruiting girls. There are recruiters in the school yards and they talk to the girls.
"I have a 13-year-old girl, Daniella, right here who is desperately trying to get back to her 52-year-old lover boy.
"When she runs away she tells the police, ‘I want to go to my lover boy, he’s 52-year-old and I love him’”.
The BBC claimed that when many of the girls were reported missing the Romanian authorities failed to investigate properly.
Detective Colin Ward from Greater Manchester Police, who runs a specialist modern-slavery unit, said it was difficult to understand the scale of the problem.
Hard to gauge the true picture
He said: “Sex-trafficking is rife in the UK. We don’t have anywhere near the true picture of how many victims there are. It must be miles bigger than what we know already.
“People will have neighbours who are victims of sex trafficking. It’s got harder for us because they could be anywhere.
"Romanian women, in general, have very little trust in the police. The experience they have with the police in their own country can be really poor.
“I’ve been doing this for 14 years now and I can count on one hand how many victims have said ‘I’m a victim, I need help.’ We’re not getting enough cases to court.”
Working to stop human trafficking
Rachel Maclean the government’s Safeguarding Minister said: “We have some of the most stringent human trafficking and modern slavery laws in the world and our law enforcement partners are working closely with counterparts overseas, including from Romania, to ensure those responsible are brought to justice.
“The Home Office is allocating £1.4 million this year to continue funding for the Modern Slavery and Organised Immigration Crime Programme to support the police in their response to modern slavery, including work to increase prosecutions and build capability to respond to organised immigration crime.”
SOLD: Sex Slaves Next Door is on BBC Two, Monday 24th January, 2022 at 11.15pm