Child Trafficking Continues in Pakistan

7/5/2011 - Despite the rescue of 1,000 Pakistani children trafficked to the UAE last year, child trafficking and forced labour continue.

Every year, 2.7 million people are trafficked. Most of them are women and children. Children alone may account for as many as 1.2 million of the people who are sold into the some of the worst forms of modern-day slavery.

Some have been sold by their parents, some abducted from their homes or streets and others recruited with false promises by traffickers.

Children of all ages are trafficked for a variety of  purposes – sexual exploitation in the commercial sex industry, marriage, domestic work, industrial labour, drug trafficking and forced begging are only a few. Babies may also be sold to childless couples or couples seeking to rear a bride for their sons.

According to a recently-published report by the Asian Human Rights Commission, children suffering from microcephaly are sent into servitude as forced beggars – a possible 20,000 of them, mostly in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Microcephaly is a neurological development disorder that causes children to have small heads. It can be caused by genetic or environmental factors that lead to abnormal brain development in the womb or after birth.

Pakistani children are also trafficked into the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where they work as camel jockeys. Between 2002 and 2010, nearly 1,000 children were trafficked into the UAE from the Southern Punjab and the Northern Sindh regions of Pakistan. Most of the trafficking victims were from Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province.

Thanks to the attention of media and non-governmental organizations, all of the children from the UAE were rescued and repatriated by June 2010.

But, human trafficking remains a lucrative business. In fact, the illicit trade in persons is valued at about $30 billion yearly.

Legislation to govern human trafficking is underdeveloped or non-existent in many countries. The sad consequence of this is that victims of human trafficking often face criminalization for the illicit activities that they have been forced to perform.

Victims are also likely in contact with their traffickers and may fear reporting them to the authorities. The fear of deportation and loss of their income and home are other deterrents to turning in their captors that victims might experience.

“For all the millions who are held in servitude, fewer than 50,000 have been officially identified as victims," said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year.