Nepal, India move to protect children from human traffickers

2015-05-27 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) Nepal has banned children from travelling without parents or approved guardians to deter human traffickers who authorities fear are targeting vulnerable families after recent devastating earthquakes. Meanwhile, in India, child victims of the Nepal earthquake as young as eight are being rescued from people traffickers amid fears they will be sold into the sex trade.

Hundreds of thousands of families lost their homes in Nepal after two large earthquakes struck on April 25 and May 12. The first 7.8-magnitude quake alone, which killed more than 8,600 people, destroyed rural areas and left hundreds of thousands homeless, raising concerns among rights groups that trafficking rings in the region were taking advantage of the chaos

It is reported that parents from poor villages in northern India, who had been working as migrant labourers in Nepal, are being convinced by traffickers posing as aid workers that their children will be given well-paid, comfortable jobs. The news comes just weeks after campaigners said they had noticed an increase in suspected trafficking at the Nepalese border with India.

The Nepalese government, having taken cognizance of the reports, has now taken measures to deter the human traffickers, thereby protecting the most vulnerable: the children.

Children under the aged of 16 would not be permitted to travel outside their home district without a parent or another adult approved by the district's Child Welfare Board, a senior official said.

"If strangers are found travelling with children, they will be under the watch of police," Radhika Aryal from the Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare said. "All district officials and police units across the country have been asked to remain on high alert on this."

International adoption of children from Nepal would also not be permitted for the next three months, Kiran Rupakheti, another official from the ministry said.

The cautionary measures come almost a week after authorities found dozens of children from earthquake-struck areas travelling with strangers under suspicious circumstances, officials said.

Tarak Dhital from the government's Central Child Welfare Board said 64 children from Dolakha and Dhading districts, both of which were devastated by the earthquakes, were now under the care of a registered children's home.

Police arrested two Indian and three Nepali adults who were travelling with 11 of the children, who were aged between 10 and 12, from Dolakha to Kathmandu without the required papers. "We are investigating if this is a case of trafficking," police official Dan Bahadur Karki said.

Reports of suspected trafficking since the quakes have so far been limited, considering the scale of destruction and Nepal's long-running struggle to reign in human traffickers operating in its borders.

Thousands of Nepali children and women are trafficked into India every year to work in brothels and as child labourers, activists say.

“Girls are at high risk of trafficking and sexual abuse, they have to be protected,” Anuradha Koirala, the founder of Maiti Nepal, an anti-trafficking organisation, said. She said her organisation had increased its monitoring operations on the border with India.

Women and girls have long been targeted in the Himalayan nation, with the UN estimating that up to 15,000 a year are trafficked to brothels abroad, mainly to India, but also as far as South Korea.

Child rights activists warn the situation may worsen as traffickers target newly vulnerable children and families.

"After the earthquake, traffickers' groups could become very active targeting parents who have lost their homes to send their children with them promising education or a better life," Krishna Thapa from the rights group Voice of Children said.

Meanwhile, in India, child victims of the Nepal earthquake as young as eight are being rescued from people traffickers amid fears they will be sold into the sex trade. Young survivors of the devastation are being targeted for work in factories and brothels, according to campaigners. Authorities in India now claim to have rescued 26 children pushed into slave labour work.

Last week 28 child labourers were rescued from a garment factory in the north-western city of Ludhiana where they were being paid around 150 rupees (£1.50) a week to stich T-shirts. “We have rescued 26 children from the clutches of human traffickers in the past 20 days and sent them to rehabilitation centres,” said Sanjeev Kumar, a senior labour official in Bihar’s East Champaran district.

“Following the Nepal disaster, the fear of children and women falling prey to the human trafficker gangs has increased manifold and so we are keeping a strict vigil along the Indo-Nepal border to prevent such happenings,” He said.

(Source: Reuters, The Guardian)

(from Vatican Radio)