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Child trafficking

A rescued trafficking victim back home in Lao PDR
© UNICEF/LAO04799/Holmes
A rescued trafficking victim back home in Lao PDR

The Issues

Human trafficking is pervasive in the region. Trafficking of women and children is particularly prevalent in the Greater Mekong Subregion (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and the southern provinces of China) where borders are easily crossed and economic disparities are great. Tremendous population movements in the past decade have contributed to the increase in exploitation of the most vulnerable, enabling traffickers an easier preying field.

• Human trafficking is widespread. Every country in the region is affected by trafficking as a place of origin and/or destination and transit point. Trafficking occurs domestically, regionally and globally.
• The link with migration. Migration has been one of the driving forces behind the region’s economic development, but it has also facilitated human trafficking and exploitation.
• Children are being trafficked for many reasons. These include domestic or factory work, begging, commercial sexual exploitation, illegal adoption and child marriage.
• Trafficking arises from many factors. Demand creates the market for trafficked children. The lack of respect for children’s rights (including the low status of girls), inadequate legislation and poor law enforcement enable the trade in children. Poverty, unemployment, desire for a better life, lack of education, family problems, domestic violence, abuse, neglect and emergency situations increases children’s vulnerability to being trafficked.
• Trafficking often affects the most vulnerable. Girls, ethnic minorities, indigenous groups, migrants, stateless persons and refugees often are targeted by traffickers.

    UNICEF in Action

    Prevention and protection constitute the cornerstone of UNICEF’s efforts to combat child trafficking in our region. UNICEF’s response includes the following key activities:

    • strengthening families and communities to better protect children;
    • educating children on the dangers of unsafe migration and trafficking;
    • supporting efforts and programmes to assist trafficked children and to reunite them with their families and communities;
    • promoting the review of laws and legal reforms to ensure compliance with international standards;
    • supporting the training of law enforcement officials and service providers; and
    • developing cross-border agreements to prosecute traffickers and ensure the safe return of trafficked children.



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