As reports of children being trafficked from Benin to the Congo increases, both states have signed onto an accord aimed at stemming the illegal activity.
Both states estimate that around 1,800 children from Benin between the ages of 11 and 18 have been trafficked to Congo. Many of these children are forced into child labour in areas such as the fishing sector, or are forced to become domestic servants.
Trafficked children are denied a childhood, an education and their basic human rights. Many of them are reportedly treated as slaves once they are kidnapped and move across borders. Head of the Mother’s Movement for Peace, Solidarity and Development, Marceline Pambou, reported to IRIN that “These children are deprived of sleep. If they make the slightest mistake in the home, they can go days without being fed. The children are treated like slaves.”
Many see this agreement between the two states as an important acknowledgement of the problem and as addressing the critical need for governments to do more to intervene in the prevention of children being victims of commercial and domestic abuse.
The accord was signed on 20 September by the two countries’ ministers of social affairs, in Congo’s economic capital, Pointe Noire. Many of hoping that this deal will create momentum for more cooperation between countries on child trafficking, which by its nature is a crisis which occurs beyond the borders of any one country.
Child trafficking represents a problem which requires policy coordinate between states, and regional cooperation to ensure that all states are working to address the underlying causes of child poverty and vulnerable communities. It will also require the dismantling of the organized cross-border criminal networks which prey on those vulnerable communities.
Already a similar deal is envisaged between Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it is reported that children frequently crossing the river separating the two countries in search of better opportunities are targets for child traffickers.