“Child Trafficking in Paris”: a documentary about the Romanian theft rings operating…

“Child Trafficking in Paris”: a documentary about the Romanian theft rings operating in Paris / Almost 1 million euros has been transferred to Romania by 38 families

Being culprits and victims at the same time, this is the paradoxical duality of these children –mostly from the Roma community. The European Culture Channel ARTE broadcasted a 57-minute documentary entitled “Child trafficking in Paris” available online until September 19 in French and German with English, Spanish, Italian and Polish subtitles.

Exploited by their own parents, they spend their days stealing wallets in the Parisian subway and fleeing the police the documentary stresses. They walk through the metro corridors in group of two or three, talking on the phone to tell the money they made and to hear the new instructions to follow. Aware of the risk of police wiretaps, they even use a coded language in which “bani” becomes “albi” and “portofele”, “portocale”.

From January to December 2019, the director of the documentary Olivier Ballande has filmed the French and Romanian policemen and judges investigating together into this phenomenon. If pickpocketing is nothing new in Paris, the documentary shows another side of the “Romanian child thief”: the criminal network behind.

They are all under the age of 18, they had to drop out of school and come to France to steal from passengers in the Paris metro. They actually have no other choice, being forced by their parents to do so, themselves obeying the clan chief from Iași.

In average, each of them brings between 200-800 euros per day and if they don’t, then they are at risk of violence. Moreover, the investigation revealed that 818,250 euros were transferred from Paris to Romania by 38 families via Western Union, without taking into accounts all the other ways of transferring money.

According to the director Olivier Ballande, the city of Iași, located in Moldova, could be considered “a school for thieves”. From the street of the Păcureţi neighborhood, the children abroad are coordinated by the clan chief meanwhile those who remain try to develop their skills before they go abroad, explained Constantin Serban, Police officer from the Direcţia de Combatere a Criminalităţii Organizate (DCCO).

Facing such child trafficking, the French and Romanian authorities have been collaborating to put an end to these networks. However, obtaining evidence remains quite hard as the children always refuse to testimony. It is all the more difficult since the victims think that what they are doing is “good” as they just obey their parents.
From time to time, one of them goes to the police station and start talking. But these spontaneous declarations are very rare.

Besides, the police face difficulties to keep these victims away from the criminal network. When the minors are arrested, they are always released the days after as the European convention makes child detention illegal. But sometimes, there is no other choice. In France, a 14 years old girl was kept in prison after having been arrested around 20 times in Romania and 30 times in France.

This situation was then denounced by NGOs. The helplessness of the justice to keep them away from their exploiters seems all the more dramatic.

This case exposed by the ARTE documentary is actually not the first one to involve Romanian people abroad. A few years ago, Romanians – not from the Roma community – were sentenced in France for child trafficking for prostitution.

Recently, the United Kingdom was shocked by the so-called Ţăndărei case. In 2010, 25 men were accused of running a major child trafficking network and the investigation identified 1,087 children as having been exploited. The victims and suspects were members of the Romanian Roma community. Finally, the case was closed down in 2019 and the defendants were acquitted.

See the documentary here

Note: Antoine Dewaest is working as an intern for G4Media, enhancing the understanding of the Romanian society. He is studying at Sciences Po Rennes, France.

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