Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Traffickers target child cyclone survivors

CHILD traffickers are targeting the youngest and most vulnerable survivors of Burma's catastrophic cyclone and two suspects have already been arrested, the United Nations has reported.

The children, among up to two million people struggling to survive without enough clean water, food or shelter in the aftermath of the storm, were approached last week in Rangoon, the UN said yesterday.

"A broker came to a shelter and tried to recruit children,'' said UNICEF's chief child protection officer in Burma, Anne-Claire Dufay.

"There was an intervention. The police intervened and made arrests,'' she said.

The official death toll from Cyclone Nargis has risen to 34,273, with 27,836 people missing, state radio said today.

Ms Dufay said children who had been separated from their parents, and who were possibly orphans, were now facing the threat of violence on top of the everyday struggle to find enough food and water.

"There are concerns for children in camps,'' she said.

Katy Barnett, Save the Children's child protection adviser in Rangoon, said the organisation was aware of the report of the arrests and expected more trafficking problems as the crisis develops.

"It's something which agencies have been expecting. It's an absolute standard thing in the fallout from an emergency like this,'' Ms Barnett said.

"Traffickers can easily get hold of unaccompanied or separated children and tell them they'll lead a better life or be safe.''

Ms Barnett said another unconfirmed report of people looking in camps to recruit girls to work as domestic workers - a typical ruse for traffickers - was being investigated by a church organisation today.

"They are asking families if they would give their girls up and they haven't been stopped yet apparently,'' she said.

Burma made human trafficking illegal in September 2005, but in a report last year the US State Department listed the isolated nation as one of the world's worst offenders, along with North Korea and Laos.

Many of those involved in the trade are women and girls who face sexual exploitation after being smuggled across borders.

--Source: here

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