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To end child labour nations must fight trafficking of children, UNICEF says

On World Day Against Child Labour, UNICEF Highlights Link With Child Trafficking

GENEVA / NEW YORK, 12 June 2003 – UNICEF said today that efforts to end the worst forms of child labour would not succeed without effective cooperative efforts to fight the trafficking of children and women within and across national borders. On World Day Against Child Labour, UNICEF pointed to estimates that the global trade in human beings is beginning to rival the illicit trafficking of arms and drugs.

“How can we put an end to the most abhorrent forms of child labour when the trafficking of children and women continues unabated?” asked Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Children are increasingly treated as commodities by organized crime networks, where the profit derives from these children being sold into servitude or forced labour. We can no longer simply look at the worst forms of child labour as a shame. We have to see it as one part of an inhuman and criminal trade that must be stopped.”

Trafficking in humans beings is beginning to rival the illegal trade in drugs and arms, with an estimated revenue of $12 billion a year, according to a 2003 International Labour Organization report.

Bellamy said children are seen by traffickers as commodities since they are more easily manipulated, on high demand and can be exploited over a longer period. Hidden from view and often from legal protection, children are lured by promises of a good education or a “better job” and smuggled across borders. Far from home or in a foreign country, trafficked children – disoriented, without papers, and excluded from any protective environment – can be forced to endure prostitution, domestic servitude, early and involuntary marriage, or hazardous and punishing labour.

Although no definitive data exists on child trafficking, some estimate that 1.2 million children are trafficked each year. Girls as young as 13 (mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe) are trafficked as ”mail-order brides.” Girls used as domestic servants are denied access to education and often sexually abused within the homes of their “employers.” In Fiji, for example, a UNICEF survey revealed that eight out of ten domestic workers reported sexual abuse by their employers. In Africa, child trafficking is recognized as a major concern in at least half of the countries, according to a study conducted by UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.

“Courageous leadership is needed from governments, who are primarily accountable for ensuring that child trafficking is criminalized and children are effectively protected from this form of exploitation.” Bellamy noted that no country is free from the trade in human beings, and that efforts to stop it must be also regional and global in nature.

“Many governments are already signatories to the Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Trafficking and Child Pornography” Bellamy observed. “But much more needs to be done to ensure its effective implementation, including ample awareness campaigns, required legal reform, universal birth registration for children and strong international cooperation. Another important measure is granting humanitarian visas or according refugee status to trafficked children. And there is no better time to start making such commitments than today, World Day Against Child Labour.”
UNICEF is committed to preventing and eliminating child trafficking. Its approach focuses on helping countries to build a protective environment for children – one which safeguards them from exploitation and abuse before it happens. Such a “protective environment” is based on eight common sense actions:

Governments need to show a strong political commitment to combat child trafficking: This includes ensuring that the necessary legislation is in place to outlaw trafficking and punish traffickers. Necessary resources need to be made available to ensure effective action is always guided by the best interests of the child.
Laws need to be rigorously and reliably enforced, including international agreements to help prevent trafficking and facilitate the safe return of trafficked children.

Attitudes and practices need to change: Getting and keeping all children in school –especially girls – would dramatically improve their protection, but 120 million children still never go to school, the majority of them girls. Awareness campaigns need to empower communities, families and children themselves to prevent trafficking.

Children need to be aware of the dangers of trafficking so that they can protect themselves: Children are often lured with promises of money and a ‘better life.’ To counter this, at-risk children need to be given practical skills that allow them to avoid being ensnared. This could include vocational training or income-generating activities at the community level to keep them from falling prey to false offers from traffickers.

All those who interact and spend time with children need to be able to recognize the risks of trafficking and respond accordingly: Teachers need to recognize the warning signs of a troubled home. Police raiding brothels need to know to search for girls who have come from other countries and avoid stigmatizing and victimizing them further. A border guard with limited awareness of trafficking may not react when seeing young children crossing a border without their parents.

Media attention is a crucial advocacy and awareness element in the fight against trafficking and in calling for the effective and systematic protection of the child victim.

Reintegration and rehabilitation for vicims of trafficking: Children who have been trafficked need services to help them escape their situation, and to return home to a safe environment. Services for child victims of trafficking need to be guided by the best interests of the child, including the child’s return to a safe environment.

For further information, please contact:

Jehane Sedky-Lavandero, UNICEF Media, New York (212) 326-7269, jsedky@unicef.org




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