International criminal groups are taking advantage of the migrant crisis and utilizing established trafficking networks to smuggle children into Ireland for sale into the sex trade, according to a new report by Europol.

The document details the “particularly harmful” EU crime networks of “large family clans” trafficking minors for the purpose of sexual exploitation and other criminal enterprises, reports.

According to the report, which is based on the testimony of more than 600 cases within EU member states between 2015 and 2017, the clans operate in multiple countries and rotate their victims on a regular basis.

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Sadly, the report shows a great number of people are engaging in the trafficking and exploitation of their own children.

The study also revealed that the majority of the ringleaders of child sex trafficking are female.

Stock image shows a young woman shielding her face. Credit: Flickr

Stock image shows a young woman shielding her face. Credit: Flickr

“Exploited children in vulnerable situations deserve to be protected more than anyone else,” said Catherine De Bolle, executive director of Europol.

“Together with EU member states, we will build on the finding of this report to better support future investigative actions at both national and EU-level against trafficking of the weakest social category of all – vulnerable children,” she said.

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The majority of the cases involved Nigerian gangs trafficking young girls for the sex trade. Organized crime gangs from Vietnam and Albania were also prevalent.

In the case of the Nigerian gangs, southern European countries such as Italy and Spain are used as the main entry port for trafficking minors, reports. The victims are then shuttled between networks to countries like Ireland where they are forced into the sex trade.

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