I live in the Netherlands where there is only one main airport. It is the third busiest in all of Europe. A friend of mine works as a passenger assistant there, and knows that I write screenplays. He approached me one day, around 2014, to tell me his story. He had become aware that some of the unaccompanied minors he escorted through the airport were… different. Child trafficking wouldn’t become prevalent in the news until a year or two later and many airport and airline staff were untrained in how to recognize a potentially trafficked victim, or what to do about it should they encounter one.
My friend first noticed a young girl flying in from a warm country, who was quite under-dressed for the cold Dutch winter. The tiny girl had no luggage at all, a fact confirmed with her “sister” whom they met in the arrivals hall. The sister, who was a much taller, very full-figured older woman, told my friend that she (the little girl) didn’t have any luggage because “she’ll wear my things.” That struck my friend as odd, but there was nothing he could do or say as a passenger assistant.
Currently, anyone can drop off a child in one airport, and they can be picked up at another by anyone. Paperwork at some airports is not kept for more than a few months before it is destroyed, and no one asks the child’s final destination/address. Sending a child via the unaccompanied minor services is an inexpensive and fast way to transport sex-slaves from third world countries directly to high-paying customers in developed countries.
I was shocked to hear my friend’s story but, the more I researched, the more I was able to confirm his experiences. Child trafficking happens here, it happens in America, in the U.K., everywhere. It doesn’t always fit one’s mental image of what a victim looks like so it can be difficult to recognize. Each case and each person are unique so, for prevention or rehabilitation of the victims, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, either.
I was able to shadow my friend at work, and see parts of the airport reserved for employees. We toured the red light district in Amsterdam. I researched a dark and murky criminal world, where nothing seemed to be as clear-cut as I had hoped. There were children who were sold into sex-slavery by their parents, or orphaned street children who had no other options or hope that life would ever be different. Pedophiles came from all walks of life, even the wealthy and well-known.
My friend had shared his observations with his boss, airport security, and other local law enforcement, as there were other unaccompanied minors whose situations seemed suspicious after that first one. No one seemed to be particularly concerned or interested in helping out so my friend began his one-man campaign to change the rules and regulations regarding how unaccompanied minors are transported on airlines.
I wrote a screenplay that told his story. It won a few awards, including Best Feature Screenplay at the New Renaissance Film Festival in Amsterdam in 2017, but it wasn’t produced into a film.
Meanwhile, my friend was busy speaking to politicians and law enforcement, working with other activists, and counseling trafficking victims. I decided to do a reverse-adaptation, and translate the screenplay into prose. I thought that might help my friend get his story out, and bring awareness to what was happening. However, as a disabled person with (among other things) a brain injury, I needed help to write the book. I sought out other writers, hoping to find a potential co-author, but couldn’t find the right fit. Few people had ever done a reverse-adaptation before, and several were concerned that, since the screenplay was inspired by a true story, they might become a target by writing about such a controversial subject, even though the book version would be fictionalized. For me, writing something of that length, without the rigid format of a screenplay to guide me, was too overwhelming a task to undertake on my own.
Out of the blue, my mom, Claire Nagel, who lives in the U.S., offered to help. She had never written a book, either. But, by corresponding weekly via Skype chat and email, we completed a novel!
I’ve been a subscriber of WritersWeekly.com for years, so Booklocker.com was my choice of publisher. When I was 50 years old, and mom was 87 (and, coincidentally, in the same week that convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died in prison), our book was published in August 2019. My greatest wish is that Unaccompanied Minor brings awareness to the child trafficking problem, and can inspire discussion into possible solutions to bring change, hope, and a voice to child victims everywhere.
A passenger assistant working in a busy European airport believed he may have transported an unaccompanied minor through customs and delivered her into the hands of sex traffickers. He reported his suspicions to the authorities and expected someone else to handle it. When nothing was done and he was faced with another unaccompanied minor in similar circumstances, he felt compelled to take matters into his own hands.
He was just an average, middle-aged service worker with no experience in law enforcement, security or a related field to draw from. Yet he became an activist, operating outside the law to try and prevent traffickers from flying their victims globally; upmarketing child sex slaves from third world to first world countries.
Kitania Kavey, an award-winning screenwriter, resides in the small city of Alkmaar in the Netherlands, where she studies Dutch and teaches English.
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