Western Saharan children playing in the refugee camp of Tindouf in the southwest Algerian desert. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA
Western Saharan children playing in the refugee camp of Tindouf in the southwest Algerian desert. PHOTO/ARCHIVE/EPA/MOHAMED MESSARA

Children account for at least 28% of human trafficking victims worldwide, a percentage that rises to between 62 to 64% in regions including sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. UNICEF says that refugee children are especially vulnerable to trafficking.

Children are 28 percent of the recorded victims of human trafficking at the world level and a whopping 62-64 percent of them in regions including sub-Saharan Africa, Central America and the Caribbean. 


Alarm over the high percentage was raised by UNICEF and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons (ICAT) on the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, July 30. UNICEF and ICAT say that the number of child human trafficking victims is larger than what the current data suggest. 

Child victims 'afraid to come forward' 

''The reality is that children are infrequently identified as victims of trafficking. Few come forward for fear of their traffickers, lack of information about their options, mistrust of authorities, fear of stigma or the likelihood of being returned without any safeguards and limited material support,'' they said in a statement posted on the UNICEF website. 

They added that ''refugee, migrant and displaced children are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Whether they are escaping war and violence or pursuing better education and livelihood opportunities, too few children find pathways to move regularly and safely with their families." UNICEF says children are especially vulnerable to violence and exploitation by traffickers when they move on their own. 

UNICEF and ICAT urge policy changes 

The UN children's agency and ICAT urged the implementation of government policies and cross-border solutions to keep these children safe, including: 
  • ''Expanding safe and legal pathways for children to move with their families, including by accelerating refugee status determinations and addressing obstacles in law and practice that prevent children from reuniting with their families 
  • strengthening child and social protection systems to prevent, identify, refer, and address cases of trafficking, violence, abuse, and exploitation against children and respond to children with specific needs based on age and gender
  • ensuring that sustainable solutions are guided by an individual assessment of the child's case and best interests determination (BID), regardless of the child's status, and that the child participates in this process to a degree appropriate to her / his age and maturity
  • improving cross-border collaboration and knowledge exchange between and among border control, law enforcement and child protection authorities, and implement faster family tracing and reunification procedures and alternative care arrangements for children deprived of parental care.'' 

UNICEF noted that care must also be taken to avoid ''measures which may push children to choose riskier routes and to move alone to avoid detection by law enforcement.''
 

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