Madeira, jewel in the sun and home of the package holiday.  But there's a side that some tourists never discover.





What did you see?

I saw him taking his trousers off then take the boy's trousers off.

Where did that happen?

On the beach


Shots of children

The holiday haven is fast becoming a sanctuary for paedophiles and the authorities appear to be turning a blind eye.



Commissioner for the Protection of Minors




To be honest I have no knowledge of any cases where children are working as prostitutes.


Shots of children

But with poverty on the one hand and the demands of tourism on the other, the situation is escalating out of control.  Exotic and accessible, in the bars of Amsterdam the seedy business of child porn has singled out Madeira as the place to come.  This film looks at what lies behind the myth of Madeira.




Forbidden Paradise



Dancer & Music

Despite its reputation as a fun resort, Portuguese Madeira is one of the few places in western Europe where children still beg on the streets.



Children begging

The average 12 year old here is more likely to spend their early years hustling for money or prostituting themselves than learning to read or write. 

And each year more and more children are turning to this way of life.



Shots of slums

Away from the bright lights communities like Camara dos Lobos are poverty ridden shanty towns.  Here the combination of destitution, desperation and large families produces an endless stream of street children vulnerable to exploitation.



Interior room

They live in conditions so cramped that it's not unusual for a family of 12 to share one room. 



Fatima's family

Fatima like many children from the district spends her days begging. She lives with her parents and four brothers in this tiny bedsit, a favour from the landlord despite his neglect of the property. They're hoping for a council place but the chances are slim.



Fatima's family


Fatima: they will only give us a house when someone gets killed.

Int: what about the bathroom?

Fatima: There isn't one. There isn't one.

Int: how do you manage to do your necessities?

Fatima: in a bucket which we empty in to the rubbish cart. We don't have a bathroom - what are we supposed to do? We have to throw it in the rubbish cart.

Int: Do you have to use a bucket during the night?

Fatima: yes - when it's full, Fatima will take it away.


Fatima's family


Int: what about the kids? Do they work?

Fatima A + Ilidio: no - they don't.

Fatima A: They go to school. Fábio and Fátima are my two kids.

Int: They go to school?

Sometimes they're out begging.

Fátima A: well, it's better to beg than to steal.


Fatima's family


Int: What happens to the money they make. Do you demand they go begging?

Fátima a: like I said, it's better to beg than to steal.



Children counting money

The capital Funchal and a short distance from the 5 star hotels  Fatima's brother Fabio and his friend Duarte count their change.  They've been out on the streets all day and it's now 11pm. Tonight their earnings are just enough to afford the bus home.



Interview with Fábio


Int: and when you don't make enough to pay the fare, what do you do?

Fábio: I stay here.

Int.: Here? Whereabouts do you sleep?

Fábio: In that bed of flowers.



Both boys are not alone in roaming the streets for money.  Although Fabio is not yet prostituting himself his night time excursions are encouraged by his parents.



Interview with Fábio


Fábio: I'll tell my mother I came to Funchal but there wasn't anyone, so I caught the bus home.  My mother will tell me to wash my feet, have a bite to eat, just a little bit.

Afterwards she'll send me to bed and tomorrow morning I'll come over here to Funchal and earn 2000 Escudos.


People in a bar

But they never had a chance to catch the bus.  A few minutes later they were arrested for what the police said was begging.  Duarte's mother has been called to the police station.



Conversation between the Police and Duarte`s mother


Mother: my poor boy ( crying)

Police woman: We saw him at the Marina begging for money and that's illegal.

Mother: yes, it's true.

PW: I know that begging is better than stealing but we have orders from above and they're not allowed to do it.

Mother: but I didn't ask him to do it.


Conversation between the Police and Duarte's mother

Often begging is not the real reason young boys are arrested.  Duarte was later caught in a public toilet with a German man and the likelihood is it wasn't the first time.



Images of the sea, music and children swimming

But with parents grateful for their children's earnings the net of opportunity is cast ever wider.  A juvenile's contact with tourists easily goes from begging to prostitution.



Int with Paulo


Paulo: This guy called Paulo. I went with him and gave him sex for two thousand escudos.  Then there was four thousand for Filipe and four thousand for Combate.  All together that makes ten thousand.


Paulo & Manuel walking

Paulo and Manuel are both 16.  They're part of a group of friends, some as young as 13 who regularly prostitute themselves.   Because of the money to be made from sex they often spend days at a time on the streets.



Interview  with Manuel


Int: Have you been with many homosexuals?

Manuel: several.

Int: how much did they pay you?

Manuel : 3 or 4 thousand escudos. I went with an Englishmen, he gave me over eight thousand escudos.

Int: what for?

Manuel: for a blow job.

Int: did you give one

Manuel: No, he gave me one.


Edgar Silva

Member of Parliament

Edgar Silva is a member of Parliament.  He argues that government policy is allowing child abuse to take place.



Int Edgar Silva


The problem is being camouflaged and it will be camouflaged as long as the political authorities continue to put up with it.  It's tourism especially the tourists implicated that's creating child prostitution not the children themselves.


GV's children swimming

But tourism is crucial to Madeira's economy and the authorities know they cannot afford to scare off the foreign influx.  For paedophiles, official laxity has turned Madeira into little more than a safe haven in which to practice their abuse.



GV's town

Dutchmen Barth Rhodes has been living in Madeira for several years. Investigated by the police for paedophile activities he's still a free man and seemingly still receiving teenagers at his home.



Int Paulo and Manuel


Int: do you know Bart?

Paulo: I do.

Int: Have you had sex with him

many times?

Paulo: only once.

Int: how did it happen?

Paulo: He had some food and he wanted to give me some. He invited me to his house in Garajau.  I was there with him, I went to his bedroom and he put on a pornographic video of men having sex....


GV's town

With a court case pending Barth is unrepentant about his lifestyle.



Int with Barth Rhodes ( in English)


BR: I've nothing to do with that kind of shit. I know more or less how it is done.

Int: but you have restricted movement in Madeira?

BR: yes. But that's normal.

Int: That's normal? I don't have...

BR: first of all, what is your definition of paedophilia?

Int: what is a child for you?


Children playing

Many believe that it's shear the size of families in Camara dos Lobos which is exacerbating the problem.  Here the birth rate is seven times higher then Madeira's average and a large family without a proper income means the children are pressured into finding money.



GV's fisherman

For the fishermen a constantly pregnant wife ensures marital fidelity.  They're rarely at home looking after the children and when not at sea, they're gambling drinking or preparing for their next fishing expedition.



Children playing outside

With role models often absent it's no wonder the children become difficult to control.  With truancy now a major problem, it's often the parents who refuse to let the authorities intervene.



Commissioner for the protection of minors


Man: When we are aware of this type of situation and the parents will not give us permission to step in we have to take the case to the Children's Tribunal.  Because in my view this is a dangerous situation and the children's tribunal has to have the power to take away parental responsibility.


Home movie footage

But in many cases parents are turning a blind eye to the abuse of their children.  This shocking video which came to light recently shows paedophile activities with 10 and 11 year old boys.  It was made by a Dutchman and a Belgian and was distributed in Amsterdam.



Home movie footage

Robert Van Deer Naatan and Norbert de Ryck have been making pornographic films in Madeira since the early ‘90's.  Their hunting ground is Camara dos Lobos and their meetings with boys are later sold to the underground paedophile trade.



Interview with Johnie and Célio


At first we thought they weren't poofters. They asked us to go for a walk, to go to the hotel and have dinner. So we went to the hotel only I didn't know they were poofters. They started having sex with these guys and I went to take a bath. They were filming and later gave me the camera so that I could film them. Then they filmed me. And that was it. They were having sex.

Int: what kind of sex?

Johnie: I don't know! Sex!


Interview with Johnie and Célio


Célio: One told me to take off my clothes and I said: " I'm sorry but I won't" I was nervous because I was a minor I was scared.  But afterwards I took them off.


Office interior

Marcel Vervloefem is an anti -paedophile campaigner.  From the head quarters of Mokhoven, a Belgium non-governmental organisation, his investigations into the disappearance of minors unearthed an international pedophile network covering Holland, Germany and Portugal. In the subsequent raids the police found several videos produced in Madeira.  But Marcel believes these are just the tip of the iceberg.



Int Marcel Vervloefem


We know that in certain bars in Amsterdam other films shot in Madeira were also shown.  It's clear that there was more films made. Because the videos were found in different locations there was obviously material which was distributed and sold. I don't know how many films we are talking about here. All I know for sure is that it involves dozens of children.


Johnie and Célio


Int: What do you think about these men.

Johnie: If I could kill them I would. I hope I don't see them again because I would go to prison for 30 years.

Int: do you think you were abused by them?

Johnie: they abused me, they abused me a lot.

Int: do you ever think about it

Johnie. I think about it all the time.


Home movie footage

Marcel has few doubts that the film produced in ‘91 by De Ryck and Van Der Naatan is typical of material sold in some Amsterdam bars which promotes the image of Madeira as a paedophiles' paradise.



Int Marcel Vervloefem


Marcel: The intention was like: here are some videos, we filmed it ourselves, what do you think of it? See how easy it is to pick a child ? We don't have to pay them much. We give them a little something to eat, some clothes, a few coins, a few cigarettes and they'll go with you. It's very easy" This was their intention. They filmed their own material demonstrating how easy it is to abuse children. How they could easily find children and how Madeira could become a focal point for all the pedophiles: all you need is a few coins, a few cigarettes and the children will go with you!


GV's children

But despite the evidence the local authorities refuse to accept there's a wide scale problem of paedophilia on the island.



Commissioner for the Protection of Minors.


Man: Camara dos Lobos is not a paedopfile´s paradise. Neither Camara de Lobos or Madeira itself. There might be and are for sure, children who sell their bodies.


Children playing

But when an island develops a reputation for offering child sex any and every youngster is vulnerable to being approached.  And that's what happened to Jose.  He was confronted by a German man who offered him sex in a public toilet.



Interview with José


José: I went for a wee and to have a drink of water and he starts touching me and saying " fuck, fuck" . I said no.

 Int: did you want you to do something with him?

José: He wanted to do it but I didn't.

Int: did you get any money?

José : yes 1000 escudos not to call the police.


Night time scenes

But money to buy a family's silence or fear of humiliation means many abusive encounters with tourists go unreported.

The recent police crack down on night time abuse has only made some boys more wary of admitting to prostitution.  And when complaints aren't made, the courts cannot proceed against the paedophiles.  Even with a testimony the Madeiran prosecution service is faced with the 2 week abuser.  A paedophile on holiday who quickly returns to his own country and the cover of immunity. 



Int Carlos Farinha

Director of Police


CF:  It's possible they'll eventually go to court in their own countries under Portuguese law, but that depends on international cooperation between governments. It's a puzzle which the public prosecutor will have to solve.


Boys at night

In a landmark case for Madeira a paedophile was recently extradited back to Holland to face prosecution.  But such manoeuvres both damage the island's reputation as a genuine holiday destination and fail to tackle what some now see as an impending disaster for the island's communities.



Int Edgar Silva


Tourism is an important part of the national economy but this and other factors have caused the problem to reach what is now a very dangerous and explosive social problem.


Image of a sun set & boats

As the island begins its war against the paedophiles, many are asking if Madeira can maintain its image as a tourist paradise. To do so they will need to tackle the culture of poverty. Only then will its growing reputation as a paradise for paedophiles be erased.








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