Monday, July 1, 2013

Natural Disasters Render Children Especially Vulnerable to Human Trafficking

Today, the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights wrote to Uttarankhana, India Chief Minister Vijay Bahung to ensure that calamity hit children in don't fall prey to trafficking. Uttarankhana is currently experiencing horrific flooding that started over ten days ago. The flooding has killed at least 822 people and forced tens of thousands to relocate. National disasters have always been a favorite hunting ground for child trafficking as children are confused, lost, often either separated from their parents or have been orphaned. The children don't know where to go, and children without supervision are more likely to fall into a trafficker's hands. There is also considerable confusion, whether it is children attempting to reach a refugee camp, or in the camps themselves. Traffickers take advantage of this confusion, as it is easier for children to slip through the cracks and therefore be exploited.

There are many examples of children being trafficked after natural disasters.

  • Authorities noted a marked increase in instances of human trafficking in countries such as India, Thailand, and Indonesia following the 2004 Tsunami
  • US customs officials arrested 20 registered pedophiles who booked flights to affected countries soon after the Tsunami
  • After the 2007 Bihar floods in India, Save the Children Foundation estimated 3,000 children were trafficked from the state

How Does this Happen?

There are many ways that traffickers are able to gain access to children. Often, traffickers enter refugee camps under the guise of aid workers and collect children that way. Another issue is that governments often prioritize rescuing survivors rather than disseminating information about and combating human trafficking. Child Right activist Rajmangal Prasad of Pratidhi stated that although they agreed that rescuing survivors should be of the utmost priority, security forces should be alert to the possibility of child trafficking. By the time the rescue effort is completed, it is often too late to prevent children from being trafficked. In regards to the recent flooding, Kushal Singh, chief of the National Commission for Protection of Child's Rights, expressed concern that the Uttarakhed government was more concerned with rescuing survivors.

What Can People Do?

Activist say that government nee to make sure that there is significant protection for children in place after disasters. There should be no unauthorized persons allowed in the camps, officials and law enforcement should be on the lookout at bus and train stations for suspicious individuals travelling with children, and there should be a concerted effort to put up flyers and posters warning about the dangers of human trafficking.
On a global level, Anthony Sappter, Disaster Risk Reduction Specialist UNICEF, called for more buy in to the UN's Charter and Action Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction, launched last May at the 3rd Global Plan for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva.

There are several countries that have policies in place to prevent trafficking after natural disasters. After the 2004 Tsunamis, Australia passed legislation to prevent any register sex offenders from entering the country. Japan has one of the best disaster-preparedness infrastructure in the world, therefore minimizing the window that traffickers had. Google created Google Person Finder, which enables people to look up relatives in effected area, which might aid in keeping track of children and preventing them from being lost and trafficked.

Other Ideas

  1. Counter-trafficking interventions must start in the emergency phase of disaster relief
  2. Significant support from the Government and other institutions to ensure sustainability of action
  3. Engagement and education of local populations
  4. Attention needs to be paid particularly on the most vulnerable populations
  5. Governments should assess existing vulnerabilities and attempt to rectify them before the next disaster
It all comes down to how prepared a country is before the disaster in order to prevent bad things from happening after the disaster. However, in the case of India, the disaster is happening now. Hopefully, with the attention that NGOs and local organizations are drawing to the dangers of orphaned and lost children, they will be able to take steps to prevent the children from being trafficked.

Jasmine Prokscha

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