World Day against Trafficking: Protecting Children & Children’s Right to Safety

As many Canadians likely know, the world is seeing mass migration in an unprecedented way. Since 2000, there has been a 49% increase in number of people living in a country other than their birth, according to recent data from the UN DESA.  This is due to many factors, including, climate change, conflict, and economic inequalities. While people of all ages migrate, children are at particular risk of violence, including trafficking, especially when they are unaccompanied by adults.

Human trafficking refers to the exploitation of people, often through forced labour, and can involve transporting those being trafficked across borders or within a country. It’s important to note that trafficking is certainly a problem in Canada as well as around the world: between 2009 and 2016, 1 out of 3 incidents of trafficking were violations of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, meaning that people were trafficked across Canada’s international borders.

Six years ago, in 2013, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution to designate July 30 as the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, in an attempt to bring awareness to victims of human trafficking, and to draw attention to the rights violations that they face. The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro has noted that not all people who are migrants are trafficked, however, when people are fleeing conflicts, poverty and emergencies, they may be pushed into migrating under unsafe and vulnerable conditions.

The story of Rehana*, which is a composite of many stories of young Rohingya girls, is told in the Save the Children Childhood Interrupted Report about the Rohingya refugee crisis. Rehana notes the fear that girls have of being trafficked: “My sister and I are scared to leave the tent because we think it’s dangerous to do so. It’s so crowded in the camps, no matter where you go: the roads, the market, the distribution centres, the toilets. There are so many people there. I have also heard children are disappearing. For example, a girl that lived a few tents away has been missing for a week now. They say there are kidnappers in the camps.”

Girls and women are overwhelmingly victims of trafficking (UN ODC). Recent data suggests that in 2014, 28% of all detected trafficking victims were children: 20% girls, and 8 % boys. Conditions in home countries, or at home can contribute to female adolescents that see no other option than to resort to migration, in turn increasing their risk of facing trafficking and exploitation.

For children, these rights violations are ones of safety and protection. As the United Nations on the Rights of the Child lays out, one of the core principles of children’s rights is the right to protection. Governments have a responsibility to ensure children’s right to be protected from all forms of violence. The risk of human rights violations faced by adolescents during and following migration, including being kidnapped, trafficked, exploited, and exposed to violence are a central concern.

At Save the Children, we work to protect children through our international development, humanitarian response, and National Reconciliation programs. The right to protection is crucial in combatting trafficking at home and abroad. We want to create opportunities for all children to live their lives free from exploitation, violence, and forced labour. Find our more about what we do here in Canada and around the world.

*name changed to protect identity

By Kate Butler