On the topic of child soldiers, I was reading The Guardian when I came across an article of a child soldier survivor.
The G2 today wrote about Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier from Sudan. The 28 year old escaped the Sudan People’s Liberation Army and after much struggle now lives in London.
Jal uses music to tell his story and raps in English, Arabic and some African languages, in fact he is currently working on a single for his third album. He has had a number one hit in Kenya and performed at the Live 8: Africa Calling concert in 2005.
I saw the film Blood Diamond the other day and was very impressed, not just because its a good movie but because it bought to light issues that I think many people, including myself, were unfamiliar with. One storyline in the film is that of Dia Vandy, a young school boy who gets taken away from his family and taught how to fight as a soldier in Sierra Leone.
Anyway im not here to advertise the film but the clip below is basically the real version of that. It is a documentary by Al Jazeera on the rising number of child soldiers in Congo. It includes some disturbing scenes with real life stories from former child soldiers and victims of their crimes.
A film about child sex trafficking which was released in October 2007.
Adriana is a 13-year-old girl from Mexico City whose kidnapping by sex traffickers sets in motion a desperate mission by her 17-year-old brother, Jorge, to save her. Trapped and terrified by an underground network of international thugs who earn millions exploiting their human cargo, Adriana’s only friend and protector throughout her ordeal is Veronica, a young Polish woman tricked into the trade by the same criminal gang. As Jorge dodges immigration officers and incredible obstacles to track the girls’ abductors, he meets Ray, a Texas cop whose own family loss to sex trafficking leads him to become an ally in the boy’s quest. Fighting with courage and hard-tested faith, the characters of Trade negotiate their way through the unspeakable terrain of the sex trade “tunnels” between Mexico and the United States. From the barrios of Mexico City and the treacherous Rio Grande border, to a secret Internet sex slave auction and the final climactic confrontation at a stash house in suburban New Jersey, Ray and Jorge forge a close bond as they give desperate chase to Adriana’s kidnappers before she is sold and disappears forever into this brutal global underworld, a place from which few victims ever return.
The UK Government has acted to prosecute traffickers and criminalise all forms of trafficking – in the Sexual Offences Act 2004 and the Immigration and Asylum Act 2004. But cracking down on the people traders is only one half of the answer – the UK should also guarantee victims’ rights are protected.
The current lack of automatic protection for those who escape from trafficking in the UK compounds the abuse that many have already suffered. Many victims are removed from the UK as illegal entrants without any assessment of what risk they may return to (and without any prospects of their traffickers being held to account).
The European Convention Against Trafficking was drawn up by the 46-member Council of Europe based in Strasbourg. It guarantees trafficked people:
A breathing period (or reflection period) of at least 30 days during which they can receive support to aid their recovery, including safe housing and emergency medical support
Temporary residence permits for trafficked people who may be in danger if they return to their country, and/or if it is necessary to assist criminal proceedings
The United Kingdom Human Trafficking Centre (UKHTC) was established to lead the fight against human trafficking. As global experts in their field, the Centre brings together a number of agencies, from law enforcement and government to non‐governmental agencies (NGOs) and charities, to create a specialist team.
The key theme of the campaign is ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ and the blindfold represents the risk of people being unaware of the crime going on around them. Given the nature of the crime, victims understandably can be reluctant and frightened to come forward. As such, in order to combat this modern form of slavery both the public and the authorities need to be vigilant and aware that the crime is going on around us.
The blue blindfold website has advice and signs to look out for, as well as real-life stories from previous victims of trafficking in the UK.
To bring the issue of child trafficking closer to home, I have found a news report by the BBC on child prostitutes in the UK.
The report, which was released in August, reveals that there are 5,000 prostitutes under the age of 18 in the UK.
I have to say that I was shocked when I read this report because I thought this kind of thing was unlikely to happen in this country where children are usually well protected. However, like I mentioned in my previous post, legal structures are inadequate to deal with the trafficking of human beings.
So what exactly needs to be done for this to stop?
A lot of people I’ve spoken to about trafficking don’t know much about it and others think of it as forced prostitution that goes on mainly in Eastern Europe.
Well, that’s not the case.
Trafficking is global, it is happening all over the world, even in the UK.
Here are some facts I’ve found on child trafficking:
Every year 1.2 million children are trafficked
UNICEF estimates that 1,000 to 1,500 Guatemalan babies and children are trafficked each year for adoption by couples in North America and Europe.
Girls as young as 13 (mainly from Asia and Eastern Europe) are trafficked as “mail-order brides.” In most cases these girls and women are powerless and isolated and at great risk of violence
Large numbers of children are being trafficked in West and Central Africa, mainly for domestic work but also for sexual exploitation and to work in shops or on farms. Nearly 90 per cent of these trafficked domestic workers are girls.
Surveys indicate that 30 to 35 per cent of all sex workers in the Mekong sub-region of Southeast Asia are between 12 and 17 years of age.
In Lithuania, 20 to 50 percent of prostitutes are believed to be minors. Children as young as age 11 are known to work as prostitutes. Children from children’s homes, some 10 to 12 years old, have been used to make pornographic movies.
National and international legal structures are inadequate to deal with the trafficking in human beings.
While there are different patterns of exploitation in different parts of the world, children are trafficked for a number of purposes, including: sexual exploitation, adoption, child labour (e.g., domestic work, begging, criminal work like selling drugs), participation in armed conflicts, marriage, camel racing, organ trade.
The victims of trafficking or their caregivers are often seeking escape from poverty. The children most likely to be trafficked are girls, those from tribal groups and ethnic minorities, stateless people and refugees.
Some children (or their parents) are lured by promises of education, or a good job, other children are kidnapped and taken from their homes. Often they are crammed into boats or trucks without enough air, water or food.
Children who are trafficked lose contact with their families. It is difficult for them to seek help not just because they are children but because they are often illegal immigrants and have false documents or no documents.
Child trafficking works through personal and familial networks as well as through highly organized international criminal networks. Recruiters are often local people. Trafficking routes change rapidly to adjust to changing economic or political circumstances or the opening of new markets.
Poor economic conditions, poverty, unemployment, an upsurge in international organized crime, lack of education, inadequate or non-existent legislation and/or poor law enforcement all contribute to the increase in child trafficking.
Trafficking becomes intensified in situations of war, natural disaster and lax regard for human rights.