Children forced into slavery!

 

Former Child Soldiers in the Democratic Republ...

Image via Wikipedia

There are at least 8.4 million child slaves in the world today. Nearly two million of these are forced to work as prostitutes, while almost half a million are child soldiers.

But the largest proportion of child slaves – more than five million – are held as forced labour. In some countries, these child slaves are simply juvenile victims of a thriving adult slave culture, but in other countries children are bought and sold specifically as child labourers.

In this episode of Slavery: A 21st Century Evil, Rageh Omaar investigates the plight of child slaves in Haiti. They are known as ‘restaveks’ from the French words ‘rester avec’, meaning ‘to stay with’. This is the practice of poor families giving their children as domestic help to wealthier acquaintances or relatives. As well as taking place within Haiti, this form of slavery can also involve children being sold or trafficked to the US. Our investigation exposes the slave traders who lure these children from isolated villages and then sell them to wealthy families.

“It’s like living in a family, but you’re not a part of the family. It’s like living in a home that’s not your home, because eventually you know they’re going to tell you to get out. It’s living in fear – fear of the adult and fear of the unknown.”

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India’s Bridal Slaves!

Indias' Bridal slaves

Indias' Bridal slaves

 

India has one of the world’s fastest growing economies. But the southwest Asian country also has the largest number of slaves in the world.

“They injected me with drugs and beat me. Then I was sold on.”Jamila, a former bride slave

In the midst of widespread poverty, fueled by economic inequality and rampant corruption, a new form of slavery – bridal slavery – has flourished. Women and young girls are sold for as little as $120 to men who often burden them with strenuous labour and abuse them. In a country where female children are sometimes considered a financial burden, the common practice of infanticide and gender-selective abortion has led to a shortfall in the number of women available for marriage – something made all the more problematic by high dowry costs. Experts say this has encouraged bride trafficking.

Jamila, a former bride slave, says her traffickers kidnapped and drugged her, before selling her to an abusive man. “He would hit me and beat me day and night. I would have to work all day in the heat …. That’s no life …. Is it worth living?”  Shafiq Khan, who runs a grassroots organisation dedicated to tracking down bride traffickers and their victims, explains: “The girls do equal amounts of work in two jobs. They are sex slaves, not just to one man but a group of 10 or 12 men. Apart from that there is agriculture – working on the farms with animals from morning until night.”

human trafficking through the Americas

MaraSalvatruchaLocation

Image via WikipediaModern day slavery routes

The United Nations estimates that human trafficking through the Americas represents a $7 billion per year business for organized criminal groups. They draw this money from the nearly three million people, mostly immigrants from the region moving north to the United States, who relocate every year, paying between $2,000 and $10,000 per trip.

The reasons for these migrations include economic hardship, political persecution, and family ties. These migrants have become vital providers for their families at home. Remittances sent from the United States to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala represent close to ten percent of the GDP of these three countries combined. Organized criminal gangs exploit these vulnerabilities. They extort entire families, sometime several times over several different borders, during one single trip. The gangs also sell their cargo into indentured servitude where they are virtually enslaved until they pay off their “debts.”

The massive trade in humans starts as far south as Argentina and almost always passes through Mexico. The entry points, while often well guarded, rarely change. They include Tijuana, Mexicali, Nogales, Ciudad Juárez, Laredo, Reynosa and Matamoros. The migrants are often held in “safe-houses” on the U.S. side while relatives or friends pay off the remaining sums demanded by the traffickers. The vast majority – close to 90 percent – are from Mexico. Most of the rest come from Central America. These Central American migrants pay more money and face more obstacles en route, including criminal gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha 13, drug trafficking groups like the Zetas and corrupt police who kidnap and extort them during their journey. Still, the United Nations estimates that many of the migrant smuggling routes are still controlled by smaller, “mom and pop” operations.

Other migrants include Chinese who are trafficked through Latin America, most notably Colombia and the Darien Gap in Panama, on their way to the United States. Wealthier Asians are known to purchase false passports in places like Guatemala and Venezuela, which allow them to transit into European countries like Spain easier. Migrants are often used as mules to carry drugs and other contraband.

Children of Nepal, Orphaned, abandoned or trafficked

Nepal Children

Stop Child Trafficking

Orphaned, abandoned or trafficked? That is the question facing foreigners who wish to adopt Nepali children.

International adoption services have provided a lucrative business to poverty-stricken Nepal. But in 2007, Nepal stopped adoptions for two years as it investigated claims of child trafficking.

After adoptions resumed, law enforcement remained weak.

By the end of 2010, many countries including the US, stopped granting visas to children from Nepal. This was in response to unscrupulous agents falsifying children’s status as orphans so they could be adopted overseas.

Today, loopholes remain in Nepal’s adoption processes and the government has been slow to formulate new policies, creating more problems for children in orphanages.

In the border district of Hetauda, in southern Nepal, child trafficking is rife and the lack of border controls makes India an easy destination. For decades, Nepali children, mostly girls, have been sought by Indian circuses for their fair skin and beauty.

Often sold to traffickers by their parents, the children are enticed with stories of beautiful new clothes, a glamorous and exciting life, the chance of an education and a regular wage. Children, sometimes as young as five years old, have been taken and, in some cases, never seen again. Sold for as little as 1,000 rupees ($13), the families rarely receive the promised wage.

Once in the circuses, these children often live in squalor and are never allowed to leave the circus compound. They are routinely beaten in order to teach them the difficult and dangerous tricks, and sexual abuse is commonplace. In effect, these children have been totally at the mercy of circus management who treat them as they please.*

In 2002, this scandal was exposed by a Nepalese children’s charity, the Esther Benjamins Memorial Foundation (EBMF), which runs a children’s refuge in Kathmandu. With police support, the EBMF started carrying out surprise raids on circuses to rescue these highly vulnerable and at risk children.

To date more than 300 Nepalese children have been rescued by the EBMF and, where possible, returned to their families. Those at risk of being re-trafficked or whose families are too poor to support them are given a place to live at the trusts’ refuge in Kathmandu.

The refuge is run by Shailaja CM and is home to 122 children, half of whom are from circuses. Shailaja heads the rescue operations and also tracks down the Nepalese traffickers who sell the children to the circuses. Many of these traffickers are now serving long jail sentences.

Through this relentless work, conditions in circuses are improving. But there are thought to be more than 100 circuses operating in India and only 12 of these are registered with the Indian Circus Federation – a non-governmental body that ensure standards and good practice. This lack of regulation makes circuses extremely difficult to monitor, and it is thought that there could be between 1,000 and 2,000 children working inside circuses today.

Some of the bigger Indian circuses are suspected of having links with other businesses, such as gambling and gun running. As a result they can hold great power within the states where they operate, even on a political level, and have been known to collude with local government officials to organize their protection in the case of a rescue operation.

Their wealth and power have made it very difficult for Shailaja and the EBMF team to take any action against them. In the past, on attempted rescue operations in some of these larger circuses, they have been faced with guns and received death threats.

But in April 2011, an amendment was made to the Juvenile Justice Act, making it strictly illegal for anybody under the age of 18 to work or train within circuses. With this amendment in place, the EBMF is now planning a new phase of raids that will target these larger, more powerful circuses first.